Japan PM Abe to oversee talks on first-strike capability

TOKYO – One of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s final tasks in office will be to decide on whether to acquire weapons that allow pre-emptive strike capability against enemy missile bases in other countries, local media have reported, citing government sources.

But this would be diplomatically controversial, given Japan’s wartime history. Some domestic and foreign policy experts have also argued that it is a slippery slope towards aggression and militarism.

The idea of Japan having “the ability to intercept ballistic missiles and others, even in the territory of an enemy” comes despite its strictly defence-oriented policy and pacifist Constitution, which Mr Abe was forced to abandon his dreams of amending. A decision on the weapons to buy is due by the end of the year.

Mr Abe, who abruptly resigned last Friday (Aug 28) but is staying on as PM until a successor is chosen, will likely map out a new security policy at a National Security Council meeting to be held by next week.

This is before the ruling Liberal Democratic Party votes for its new president on Sept 14, and before Parliament is set to convene two days later to officially inaugurate the new PM.

Mr Abe will also oversee talks on an alternative plan for the United States’ land-based Aegis Ashore anti-ballistic missile system, which Japan ditched in June after it found that a costly technical redesign was necessary to ensure that boosters would not fall on residential areas.

The Aegis Ashore system had been meant to beef up Japan’s missile defences against external threats, primarily North Korea.

Alternative plans being considered include using floating islands with missile defence systems, drones to monitor missile sites as well as expanding its fleet of Aegis warships and squadron of airborne early-warning aircraft.

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