Build strategy to enhance Japan’s deterrence

In addition to mounting military tensions around Japan, new threats such as sophisticated missiles and cyber-attacks have been increasing. The ruling parties should present measures to strengthen Japan’s defense capabilities that face up to reality.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner Komeito have begun talks on revising three security-related documents, including the government’s national security strategy. They intend to finalize the policy for the revision of the documents by the end of the year and reflect it in the government’s work.

During their talks, the two parties will analyze military developments in China, Russia and North Korea and consider future security strategies for Japan. Other key issues to be addressed also include the size of the defense budget and how to secure financial resources for that purpose.

The focus will be on how to define the concept of “counterattack capabilities” against armed attacks on Japan. In its proposals compiled in April, the LDP called for possessing counterattack capabilities, while maintaining Japan’s exclusively defense-oriented policy based on the Constitution. The aim is to increase the nation’s deterrent effects.

The government has maintained that it is possible to take the minimum necessary self-defense measures against missile and other attacks on Japan, including attacks on enemy bases.

Past governments have followed the 1956 response to Diet questions that “standing by while the nation is brought to ruin can never be considered the purpose of the Constitution.”

The LDP’s proposals are in line with this, but they are characterized by not limiting the target of counterattacks to missile bases, but “including enemy command and control functions.”

China and North Korea have the technology to launch missiles from hard-to-detect mobile launchers and submarines. The aim of neutralizing the enemy’s “command and control functions” to minimize damage to Japan is understandable.

While Komeito acknowledges the need for counterattack capabilities, the party calls for a strict definition of when an enemy “initiates” an armed attack so that a counterattack by Japan is not considered a preemptive strike.

The government has traditionally described the launching of an armed attack, for example, as “the point at which an enemy clearly shows its intention to attack and injects fuel into the missiles.”

If the definition of the starting point of an armed attack is overly limited, there could be a delay in judgment and opportunities for counterattacks could be missed.

During their talks about security-related laws between 2014 and 2015, the LDP and Komeito transcended their policy differences and paved the way for Japan’s limited exercise of the right to collective self-defense. It is hoped that the parties will continue to tenaciously discuss the possession of counterattack capabilities and reach common ground.

In recent years, China and others have increased their attack capabilities in space and cyberspace. Strengthening the response capacity to deal with threats in these new areas is also an important challenge.

The security environment surrounding Japan has never been as bad as it is now, and there is an urgent need to expand defense spending. However, the fiscal situation is strained. The ruling parties have a responsibility to present a permanent source of revenue for this purpose.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 19, 2022)