Japan Eyes Option for Pre-Emptive Strikes Against Chinese Missiles

After scrapping the deployment of the U.S.-made ‘Aegis Ashore’ missile defense systems last week, Japanese leaders are proposing pre-emptive strike options to deter North Korea – and China (RELATED: China Rushing to Double Its Nuclear Forces by 2030). This would be a major new test of Japan’s pacifist constitution which precludes offensive military capabilities.

However, the dramatically growing threat from a reckless North Korea, and increasingly from an ascendant and belligerent China, is changing the calculus in Tokyo – and Washington. Japan is saying that the new security environment requires new thinking.

“New efforts are needed to improve deterrence, including the possession of the ability to defeat ballistic missiles and other weapons, even in the territory of an opponent,” said the just-released proposal by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) defense policy committee, according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ). This clearly entails an offensive strike option.

Japan’s National Security Council is set to consider the proposal in August. But what would this new strike capability look like?

Asian Review reported that “There is already a plan for acquiring hardware capable of preemptive strikes. The defense ministry decided to introduce long-range cruise missiles to the arsenal in 2017.”

The missiles, which have a range of 900 km, would be fired from Japan Air Self-Defense Force fighter jets. The government, however, maintains the missiles are not for the purpose of attacking enemy bases. Some in the LDP have argued in favor of possessing land and sea-based cruise missiles.

To be truly effective though, offensive capability alone is not enough. Japan should also consider other alternatives for missile defense. The LDP proposal addresses this concern and said “Japan should look for ways to find similar improvements to its missile defenses to those the Aegis Ashore system would have provided, while also using deterrence to ward off any possible attacks,” reported WSJ.

The Aegis Ashore missile defense system would have provided Japan with a “nationwide layer of protection against ballistic missiles,” noted WSJ, however, “Tokyo blamed major new costs and delays from modifications needed to ensure rocket debris from the Lockheed Martin Corp.-developed Aegis Ashore system didn’t land on residential areas in Japan.”

Alternatives to Aegis Ashore include, according to Asian Review, “expanding the fleet of Aegis-equipped warships or building artificial mega float structures to stage Aegis systems offshore.” But if cost is a significant factor, both these options are also very expensive.

Whatever the future holds for Japan’s defense strategy, when it comes to missiles, the country should consider having a mix of defensive and offensive capability. That will provide the best defense – and deterrence.

READ NEXT: U.S. Deepening Defense Ties With Asian Allies to Counter China >>

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Paul Crespo

Paul Crespo is the Managing Editor of American Defense News. A defense and national security expert, he served as a Marine Corps officer and as a military attaché with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) at US embassies worldwide. Paul holds degrees from Georgetown, London, and Cambridge Universities. He is also CEO of SPECTRE Global Risk, a security advisory firm, and President of the Center for American Defense Studies, a national security think tank.

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