Tokyo (Reuters) – Months before announcing his resignation, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a policy change that could allow Japan’s military to plan an attack on land targets in China and other parts of Asia for the first time.
Japan’s Self-Defense Forces are capable of stopping attackers in the air and at sea. A change in policy would direct the military to formulate a doctrine to target enemy sites on land – a mission that would require the purchase of long-range weapons such as cruise missiles.
If adopted by the next government, the policy would be one of the most significant changes in Japan’s military stance since the end of World War Two. This reflects Abe’s longtime push for a more robust military and Tokyo’s deep concern about Chinese influence in the region.
The Japanese government is concerned by China’s increasing military activity around the islands of the disputed East China Sea.
“The main reason for our action is China. We have not really emphasized this, but the security choices we make are due to China, “Masahisa Sato, an MLA from Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, who served as deputy defense minister and a deputy foreign minister As interviewed, said interview.
Japan renounced its right to wage war after World War Two, making it the target of a ground attack – which would withstand attacks on foreign soil – controversial to its Asian neighbors, especially China.
Abe said that he was stepping down due to a deteriorating health last month. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who is seen as a lesser juggler than Abe but is closely aligned with him, hopes to win the race to replace him as the leader of the party and become chief.
Abe instructed senior defense policymakers in June to come up with LDP proposals for the military, including a land assault, or strike.
The proposal would become the government’s policy if it were incorporated into the revised national defense strategy, which is likely, according to two insiders, including LDP acting general secretary Tomomi Inada.
“I don’t think there’s much opposition in the LDP,” Inada told Reuters. “That direction does not change even with the new Prime Minister.”
The military may already use long-range missiles to attack ships. It justifies such plans as Japan should be able to destroy threatening weapons. According to former Defense Minister Etsunori Onodera, a land-attack proposal has been prepared using the same logic.
Therefore, supporters say, Japan’s laws will not need to be changed. During his eight-year tenure, Abe pushed for war but failed to achieve his goal of revising Article 9 of the post-war constitution.
Japan’s National Security Council, which heads Abe and includes key cabinet officials, including Suga, called on Friday and said in a statement that it would prepare a new national security strategy by the end of the year.
The statement said, “The question is whether preventing attacks alone is enough to protect peace, life and livelihood of people.” ”
Katsutoshi Kawano said the US-made BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missile would be an option for land-attacking weapons, which until last year were Japan’s most senior military officer, chairman of the heads of self-defense forces.
Tomahawks can target up to 2,500 kilometers (1,553 mi) away. It would put most of China and most of the Russian Far East.
“Japan could possibly have strike capability within five years,” Kawano said. “A full strike package, including targeting satellites and electronic warfare components, would, however, be more expensive and take more than several years to acquire.”
Meanwhile, Japan will have to rely on the United States for intelligence and surveillance.
To move the proposal forward, the next government will need to complete a mid-term procurement plan as well as promising a revised defense strategy by the end of December by the NSC before the Ministry of Defense submits its annual budget request .
This could elicit resistance to the LDP’s coalition partner, the Buddhist-backed Komito, which would raise such concern in opposition to China and threaten Japan’s war-leaving constitution.
“It can promote arms race and increase stress. It will be technically difficult and will require heavy investment, ”Komoto leader Natsuo Yamaguchi said in an interview. “This is something that should be seriously thought of under the new Prime Minister.”
Even some of the LDP’s security circles, including Suga’s rival rival, former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, see potential downside to acquiring long-range cruise missiles.
“What if the United States tells Japan to fire them, and we don’t want to?” He asked.
Reporting by Tim Kelly and Kiyoshi Takenka, additional reporting by Yoshifumi Takemoto and Ami Miyazaki; Editing by David Dolan and Gerry Doyle