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Abe calls for defence policy change to include preemptive strike capability

Abe, who is stepping down next week for health reasons, said the ability to intercept missiles after they are launched may not be enough and Japan should seek greater deterrence

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Shinzo Abe | Japan | military

AP | PTI  |  Tokyo 

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
Japan must show its unshakable commitment and capability with an ability to defend its territory and peace as a sovereign nation, he said.

Prime Minister said Friday that should make a major change to its by developing a first-strike capability on enemy bases to defend against imminent attacks amid rising missile and nuclear threats in the region.

Abe, who is stepping down next week for health reasons, said the ability to intercept missiles after they are launched may not be enough and should seek greater deterrence.

He said the new government will compile a revised defense policy by the end of the year.

The ability to carry out preemptive strikes would be a significant shift in the defense policy has followed since the end of World War II. Japan's postwar constitution limits the use of force to self defence.

Abe, a defense hawk, said Japan is seeking to build up its missile deterrence capability within constitutional limitations, though he did not say how that can be possible.

Can we protect the people's lives and their peaceful livelihoods just by stepping up our missile intercepting capability? Abe said in a statement.

Japan must show its unshakable commitment and capability with an ability to defend its territory and peace as a sovereign nation, he said.

Abe made the comments after members of the National Security Council, including Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who is seen as Abe's most likely successor, agreed to pursue the proposal.

Defense experts in his governing Liberal Democratic Party earlier compiled a report urging Japan to develop a preemptive strike ability because of North Korea's missile and nuclear development and China's increasingly assertive activity in the East and South Seas.

Abe's push for the capability intensified after Defense Minister Taro Kono scrapped a plan to deploy two Aegis Ashore land-based interceptors due to technical reasons.

Japan has been increasingly purchasing costly missile defense systems and fighter jets from the United States.

Since taking power in 2012, Abe has expanded Japan's defense budget and capabilities and has sought to expand its role in peacekeeping and in the Japan-US security alliance.

In 2015, he adopted a new interpretation of the constitution's war-renouncing Article 9 to include the United States in its self defence in a concept of so-called collective self defence.

Allowing strikes on enemy territory would require Japan to have long-range weapons including cruise missiles such as US-developed Tomahawks and other highly advanced equipment.

A revision of the allowing such weapons, however, could be a challenge.

Even some hawkish defense experts say allowing a preemptive strike capability within Japan's constitutional limitations would be difficult.

Such capabilities would also be costly, and Japan would have to rely on the US for surveillance, former Defence Minister Shigeru Ishiba said.

I don't think Japan by itself can decide whether to (launch) missiles against enemies or their territories under the Japan-US alliance," Ishiba told reporters Friday.

The change could also face resistance from the governing party's junior coalition partner, Komeito, a Buddhist-backed dovish group.

First Published: Fri, September 11 2020. 22:56 IST
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