Enhance deterrence by acquiring effective counteroffensive capabilities

The security environment surrounding Japan is becoming increasingly severe. There is a need to enhance deterrence by having the capabilities to counter missile and other attacks from other countries.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party has compiled proposals to revise three documents, including the National Security Strategy and the National Defense Program Guidelines. The government intends to start full-fledged deliberations on the proposals after the House of Councillors election slated for this summer and revise the documents at the end of the year.

The proposals state that China’s repeated intrusions into Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands “have become a serious threat.” They also stress that Russia has “become a real threat to the region and the international community” following its invasion of Ukraine.

It is only natural that the level of threat awareness has been raised compared to previous levels.

Based on such situations, the proposals call for Japan to possess capabilities to counter armed attacks such as those with missiles. While clarifying that Japan will not launch a preemptive strike in violation of international law, the proposals state that counterattacks will not be limited to enemy missile bases, but will also include command and control functions, among others.

Hypersonic missiles being developed by China, Russia and North Korea are difficult to intercept with current missile defense systems due to their irregular trajectories.

In addition, some launchers are mobile. So, if it is not possible to launch counterattacks on related military strongholds, missiles could be fired upon one after another.

Taking the minimum self-defense measures necessary in the event of an attack by another country is allowed under international law and the Japanese Constitution.

Some opposition parties have criticized such measures as deviating from the principle of an exclusively defense-only policy, but how is it a deviation? The opposition parties should present concrete measures to deal with such situations if they have other ideas.

The challenge is to ensure effectiveness. Possession of counteroffensive missiles and a series of systems to identify targets in advance, among other purposes, is a prerequisite for counteroffensives.

As there are limits to what the Self-Defense Forces alone can do, cooperation with the U.S. military will be essential. It is important for Japan and the United States to draw up operational plans and regularly conduct joint exercises.

There are opinions within the LDP calling for discussions on “sharing nuclear forces” with the United States. But the party did not include it in the proposals. This was an appropriate decision because priority should be placed on possessing counterattack capabilities.

With regard to the defense budget, the proposals state that Japan should “aim to achieve the budget level necessary to drastically strengthen its defense capabilities within five years,” based on the goal set by North Atlantic Treaty Organization members of spending more than 2% of gross domestic product on defense.

Amid the strained fiscal situation, it is difficult to sharply increase defense spending. It is imperative to have specific equipment and systems in place to deal effectively with situations that may arise, rather than taking measures based on the premise of expanding the budget framework.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 27, 2022)