Military /

Japan Mulls Unprecedented Change To Defense Doctrine Incorporating Long-Range Missiles

New rocket would extend Japan's missile range by 1,000%


The Japanese civilian government was asked by its ministry of defense to approve a budget request for “stand off” missiles which would allow the Japan Self-Defense Forces to hit ground targets in territories hundreds of miles away.

Japan’s defense ministry, in a white paper outlining its annual threat assessment, openly discussed its distrust of China and Russia, referring to the latter as an “aggressor nation.”

According to the ministry, the ability to use force in defensive retaliation against these nations will act as a deterrent and signal that an attack on Japan will have consequences. To achieve this deterrence against China’s “coercion,” the country has begun developing an upgraded version of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ Type-12 surface-to-ship missile that will extend its range from 100 km to 1,000 km and allow it to be fired from multiple weapon systems. Japan, which has territorial disputes with both China and Russia, discussed how technological advancements in their neighbors’ military technology require Japan to develop its own weapons inventory.

It is unclear how many missiles would ultimately be produced — concrete figures, the Ministry of Defense said, will not be available until a revised version of Japan’s National Security Strategy is approved later this year.

The upgraded Type-12, which Japan describes as a standoff missile intended to be used in a long-range counterattack, marks a departure from decades of a mostly self-enforced prohibition on long-range missiles, which were previously understood to be strictly offensive weapons. Japan’s finalized budget will be compiled at the end of this year.

The Japanese government also plans to significantly increase military spending by about 20% compared to last year. The move, if implemented, would put Japan on a five-year track to achieve the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s guideline that members should invest 2% of their gross domestic product in national defense. Achieving this benchmark would also boost Japan’s military standing worldwide, potentially bumping Russia or China from a top three spot in the Credit Suisse Military Strength Index ranking of the strongest militaries.

The Liberal Democratic Party, which has prominently placed constitutional reform in its party platform since its inception, has held nearly uninterrupted power since 1955 through its own electoral success and occasionally through forming coalition governments with significantly weaker parliamentary allies.

At 75 years, Japan’s constitution is the oldest unamended governing document and, despite efforts from LDP, contains strict restrictions imposed on the nation following its unconditional surrender in response to the Postdam Declaration and subsequent atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. At the center of LDP’s criticism is Article 9 of Japan’s constitution which renounces the use of force as a legitimate right of sovereign nations and prohibits the formation of a military.

Japan’s legislators and bureaucracy have opted to loosely interpret the constitutional provision, taking the lead from General Douglas MacArthur’s occupying forces who established a Japanese-administrated National Police Reserve when American garrisons in Japan deployed for the Korean War.

Article 9 has since been interpreted only to prohibit the possession of offensive weapon systems like bombers and long-range missiles and further prohibits the projection of Japanese forces in foreign territories. An evolution of that institution, the Japan Self-Defense Forces, are no longer restricted to maintaining internal stability but also serve in the traditional national security role of territorial defense.

In 2014, the Japanese government announced that further clarification on the interpretation was necessary to avoid a situation like the Gulf War, during which Japan was constitutionally prohibited from participation. Japanese forces, it was decided, could be deployed to the aid of allies in combat operations overseas. In 2019, the recently assassinated Liberal Democratic former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared that even long-range cruise missiles were constitutional under Article 9.

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