Minimal level of counterstrike capabilities eyed

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo

To deter an armed attack, the government aims to acquire counterstrike capabilities but will limit their use to the minimum necessary for self defense, according to a document outlining the government’s position on the issue.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida intends to seek public understanding over the change in the government’s security policies regarding the possession of counterstrike capabilities.

The document notes that other countries are “strengthening their missile capabilities in both quality and quantity, and improving related technologies and operational capabilities,” in an apparent reference to North Korea and China.

The document states that “it would be difficult to fully counter these threats with missile defense networks alone.”

According to the document, Japan will maintain security forces designed exclusively for defense and use counterattack capabilities within the scope of the Constitution and international law. There is no change in the view that “preemptive attacks will not be allowed.”

Regarding the use of such capabilities, Japan will make a “judgment in light of each specific situation,” while adhering to international law that limits attacks to military targets.

In April, the Liberal Democratic Party said counterstrike targets could include the “command and control functions” of an enemy country, such as a command center directing attacks.

In the document, the government has refrained from giving examples of targets and made no mention of what qualifies as an attack initiation.

The government aims to improve its deterrence capability by ensuring flexibility in decision-making without revealing full details about its counterstrike policy.

The counterstrike arsenal is likely to include foreign-made missiles and an improved version of the Ground Self-Defense Force’s Type 12 surface-to-ship missile.

The Defense Ministry is aiming to purchase U.S.-made Tomahawk cruise missiles.

The LDP’s junior coalition partner Komeito reached a basic agreement on the possession of counterattack capabilities at a meeting of the party’s Research Committee on Foreign Affairs and National Security held Thursday.