March 2018
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Japan to buy cruise missiles capable of striking North Korea
(Tokyo, Dec 08, 2017):Japan announced plans to buy air-launched cruise missiles capable of striking North Korea in a decision that means a nation committed to pacifism will acquire its longest-range weaponry.

Announcing the acquisition on Friday, Itsunori Onodera, defence minister, said that the missiles would be purely for defensive purposes and did not reflect a policy of preventive strikes against enemy bases.

“With the introduction of stand-off missiles?.?.?.?we can deal with naval or land units of an enemy invading our country from beyond their detection range,” Mr Onodera said.

The plan for a more robust missile force underlines Tokyo’s fears over North Korea’s missile capability and Chinese expansionism, as well as its doubts about US commitment to the defence of east Asia.

Because the weapons will give Japan the capability to launch offensive strikes, the move is likely to face scrutiny in parliament, where opposition parties will regard it as diluting the country’s commitment to a purely defensive military stance.

The defence ministry is requesting funds in next year’s budget to start procurement of the Joint Strike Missile (JSM) for the F-35 stealth fighter. The JSM is a cruise missile designed by Norwegian defence contractors Kongsberg Gruppen for use against land and sea targets.

Japan is also looking at mounting the US Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) and its variant, the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM), on its existing fleet of F-15 fighters.

The JSM has a range of 500km and the US missiles have a range of 900km, Mr Onodera said. Either would allow Japan to strike at targets within North Korea or China from aircraft flying inside its own territorial waters.

Mr Onodera insisted that the planned missile purchases did not affect the division of responsibilities whereby the US is solely responsible for offensive warfare within the US-Japan alliance. The US has extensive military forces based in Japan and the two countries have been allied since the 1950s.

“The stand-off missiles we are introducing at this time are purely for our national defence and are not for the purpose of attacking enemy bases,” he said. “In terms of striking enemy bases, the division of roles is such that we rely on the US, and we are not considering any change in those roles.”

Despite Mr Onodera’s comments, Japan’s neighbours are likely to be sceptical about Tokyo’s intentions, because before becoming defence minister this summer he was known for arguing that Japan should acquire the ability to strike North Korean ballistic missiles before a launch.

Cruise missiles would in effect give Japan that capability should a future government change defence policy to allow it.

Strategists in Tokyo also think that an effective counterstrike capability will improve deterrence against North Korea by removing any doubt about whether an attack launched purely against Japan — not the US — would draw a military response.

The US-Japan alliance commits Washington to defending Japan against any attack but relies on US resolve to meet its terms.

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