LDP, Komeito poised to agree on inclusion of counterstrike capabilities in security documents

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo

The Liberal Democratic Party and its ruling coalition party Komeito on Friday are expected to reach a basic agreement on the need for Japan to possess counterstrike capabilities to destroy enemy missile sites and other targets for self-defense, according to government sources.

The ruling parties are in the final stage of working-level discussions on the matter.

In light of the severe security environment, the parties have determined that it is necessary to strengthen the nation’s deterrence capabilities.

The government intends to state the need for such capabilities in three key security documents to be revised by the end of the year, including the National Security Strategy, the sources said.

The move would mark a major shift in Japan’s postwar security policy, which has focused solely on defense while relying on the U.S. military for offense.

In April, the LDP proposed the acquisition of counterstrike capabilities to target missile sites, as well as command and control functions, such as command headquarters.

Komeito has supported the idea of possessing counterstrike capabilities but has expressed concern about the possibility of the policy being misinterpreted to mean preemptive attacks, which are against international law. The party has also expressed concern regarding the expansion of the scope of possible targets.

According to the sources, the government is considering reviewing legal principles to follow when enacting counterstrike capabilities, such as the principle of exclusive defense based on the Constitution, international law and other legal principles.

The LDP will aim to get Komeito fully on board by simply stating the target of counterstrikes as “military targets” without going into details.

Under existing laws, in the event of an armed attack, the government will formulate a basic response policy, which will require Cabinet approval. The use of force is possible once the Diet approves the policy. If Japan were to possess counterstrike capabilities, it would be able to use the capabilities as part of such force.

The government has taken the position that counterattacking enemy territory can be interpreted as being within the right of self-defense, so it would be constitutionally possible if Japan were to face immediate danger or come under attack.

In recent years, North Korea has rapidly advanced its missile technology, and China has amassed a huge arsenal of ballistic missiles, raising concerns about the limits of Japan’s missile defense.

A government panel of experts submitted a set of proposals to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Tuesday, stating, “It is essential to possess and strengthen” counterstrike capabilities.