Japan to Proceed with “Indirect Military Aid” to Ukraine

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Prime Minister’s Office

Tokyo (Jiji Press)—The Japanese government is poised to proceed with “indirect military aid” to Ukraine by providing surface-to-air missiles to the United States, whose stockpiles have been reduced due to its support for Ukraine under Russian aggression.

In December, Japan revised the implementation guidelines for its three principles on the transfer of defense equipment to allow finished defense products manufactured under license from foreign companies to be exported to the companies’ countries. It also announced a plan to sell the Self-Defense Forces’ Patriot surface-to-air guided missiles to the United States.

As Russia is stepping up missile and drone attacks amid a slowdown in aid to Ukraine from the United States and European allies, Ukraine has asked for air defense equipment and other assistance.

Japan’s provision of missiles to the United States is seen as a stopgap measure until the United States increases its missile production. In addition to PAC-2 missiles against fighter jets and cruise missiles, Japan also plans to provide PAC-3 missiles designed to intercept ballistic missiles.

The missile provision, however, has raised strong concerns that Japanese-made equipment may be used in Ukraine. To prevent this, Tokyo and Washington have confirmed in documents that the missiles would not be transferred to third countries. “We have to be more careful than ever,” said a senior Japanese Defense Ministry official.

Russia is increasingly wary of the possible use of Japanese weapons in Ukraine. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has said that if Japanese-made missiles are provided to Ukraine through the United States, Moscow will consider it an act of hostility.

Changing Spear-and-Shield Relationship

As the United States focuses its resources on the situations in Ukraine and the Middle East, a Japanese Foreign Ministry official said Japan is “increasingly being urged to make its own efforts.”

China’s growing military presence in East Asia is prompting the United States and Japan to reconsider their “spear-and-shield” relationship, with Japan expected to take on some of the United States’ offensive role.

The Japanese government decided last autumn to move up the introduction of U.S.-made Tomahawk cruise missiles with a range of 1,600 kilometers by one year from the initially planned fiscal 2026. Last month, it concluded a contract with the U.S. government to buy 400 Tomahawk missiles.

Tokyo has also decided to accelerate the development of revamped Type 12 surface-to-ship guided missiles with a firing range of more than 1,000 kilometers, aiming to complete it in fiscal 2025.

In a move toward possessing counterattack capabilities, the Defense Ministry has submitted to the ongoing ordinary session of the Diet a bill to revise the Self-Defense Forces Law to establish a joint operations command to oversee the Ground, Maritime and Air SDFs.

The envisioned joint command is expected to serve as the Japanese counterpart to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and help improve joint response capabilities.