June 9, 2017 11:31 am JST

Japan needs ability to strike enemy bases, says ruling party

LDP proposal also suggests cyber force, land-based missile defense

Japan may deploy a land-based antimissile system such as Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, commonly known as THAAD. © Reuters

TOKYO -- Japan's ruling party will suggest giving the country the capacity to strike enemy bases, as well as forming a cyber-offense team, spurred by North Korea's advancing nuclear and ballistic missile development.

These points are included in a draft of recommendations put together by the Research Commission on Security of the Liberal Democratic Party. The recommendations will be presented to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe this month.

Expanding powers

Citing the need to raise Japan's deterrence and coping abilities, the proposal urges that discussion on gaining the capability to strike enemy bases begin immediately, noting that cruise missiles are one possible means. Successive governments have come to favor an interpretation of Japan's constitution allowing the right to strike enemy bases. In parliamentary discussions earlier this year, Abe said the matter should always be on the table for discussion.

Citing successive missile launches by North Korea, the proposal also suggests strengthening cyberattack capabilities. With those powers, Japan could shoot down a first missile, then forestall a second strike by mounting an attack on the aggressor's networks. Such a move, the proposal says, could be used more effectively in conjunction with cruise missiles.

The Self-Defense Forces have a cybersecurity specialist team of roughly 100 members. In accordance with that team's expanding role, the proposal recommends discussing public-private cooperation in order to take on civilian staff.

As for the ballistic missile threat, the panel also suggests deploying new land-based missile defense systems such as Aegis Ashore or Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, also known as THAAD. The government is already leaning toward using Aegis Ashore, and the Defense Ministry aims to seek financing for preliminary research and other measures in its fiscal 2018 budget request.

Another point in the LDP proposal is equipping the SDF with more cutting-edge F-35A stealth fighters. The government plans to deploy 42 of the jets starting in the next fiscal year. The proposal did not suggest any specific targets for increasing that count.

The commission will also ask that its recommendations be reflected in the next medium-term defense program for the five years beginning fiscal 2019, which the government will consider as soon as the second half of this year. The current program runs through fiscal 2018.

Wrinkles in the plan

The proposal faces plenty of obstacles. For one thing, being capable of striking enemy bases may open debate on the underlying principles of Japan's alliance with the U.S. Under the current arrangement, America is said to be the "spear" that can attack, while Japan is the "shield" that defends and provides logistical support. Some in the U.S. have deep-seated concerns about Japan regaining military independence, as well as the potential for friction with its neighbors.

There are no prospects for securing a budget for the recommended measures, either. The proposal implicitly suggests raising the defense budget, which has so far been capped at 1% or less of gross domestic product. It calls for using NATO's guidance that members raise defense spending to 2% of GDP as a "reference," but there has been insufficient discussion within the party on securing the needed funds.

LDP politician Hiroshi Imazu, chair of the security commission, and others on Thursday presented Abe with recommendations for evacuating Japanese from the Korean Peninsula in the event of an emergency there. The plan calls for strengthening partnerships with civilian aviation companies, among other actions, in order to protect the country's roughly 60,000 citizens in South Korea. Abe said he intended to "firmly address" the issue.

(Nikkei)

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