Tokyo: A ruling party committee has approved a proposal for Japan to acquire capabilities to halt ballistic missile attacks within enemy territory.
Giving long range munitions to Japan’s Self Defense Forces is a controversial issue for a country that renounced the right to wage war after its defeat in World War Two. The proposal could also anger China and Russia, which could fall within range of any new strike weapons.
The proposals, crafted by senior Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers including former defense minister Itsunori Onodera, will be presented to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as early as next week.
The recommendations will be discussed by Japan’s National Security Council, which is expected to finalize new defense policies by the end of September.
Abe has pushed for a more muscular military, arguing Japan needs to respond to a deteriorating security environment in East Asia as US inroads in the region and its standoff with China are escalating tensions.
A strike option against mobile launchers requires close surveillance with satellites that Japan does not currently possess, meaning it would have to rely on help from ally the United States.
US defense company Raytheon has been lobbying senior LDP lawmakers with a proposal to choose its SPY-6 radar rather than using Lockheed’s system, sources earlier told Reuters.
“The government will make a decision regarding this by the end of September and our thinking will be reflected in that,” Onodera said.
President Donald Trump has been pressuring Tokyo to purchase millions of dollars of US weapons.
Abe’s government has announced that it will spend a record 242 billion dollars on military equipment over the next five years, 6.4 percent higher than the previous five-year plan.
Japan has ordered about 100 US-designed F-35 stealth fighter jets with an option to take off and land vertically, suggesting Tokyo is also developing aircraft carriers for the first time since World War II.
With the new purchases, Japan plans to operate 147 of the F-35s, CNN reported. Earlier this month, Japan also announced plans to build “one of the world’s most sophisticated stealth jet fighters”, likely a twin-engine aircraft, in the next decade.
The new sixth-generation fighters would begin production in fiscal year 2031 and replace the country’s aging fleet of almost 100 F-2 jets, single-engine fourth-generation fighters modeled after American F-16s, Japan’s NHK News said.
Last month, a photo appeared on Twitter which depicted the helicopter carrier Izumo undergoing modification for fixed-wing operations, apparently at the Japan Marine United shipyard in Yokohama.