Japan Wants Cruise Missiles (And that Should Terrify China or North Korea)

    Kyle Mizokami

    Security, Asia

    North Korea’s threats of destruction against Japan may end up creating a new, more capable Japanese military that neither Pyongyang or Beijing are prepared for.

    North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons has destabilized East Asia, with far-reaching consequences not only for its neighbors but the entire world. Japan, the only country in history subject to nuclear attack, now faces the possibility of new attacks. In response, the country is considering buying offensive missiles for the first time since the end of World War II. Those missiles would give Japan the ability to destroy nuclear-tipped missiles on the launching pad, before they are used.

    Japan forsake war as a tool of the state and banned offensive weapons as a matter of policy in the aftermath of World War II. Aircraft carriers, ballistic missiles, bombers, and marine infantry were all prohibited on the grounds that they had purely offensive purposes. Since then, however, a growing number of formerly prohibited forces and formations, including marines, have been re-evaluated and cleared for use so long as they are used defensively or to pre-empt enemy offensive action.

    Although Japan has a very good ballistic missile network, it has until now been unable to consider the most obvious way to avoid attack: striking first. The scenario most often presented is that of a Japanese satellite detecting a North Korean liquid-fueled, nuclear-tipped missile on the launch pad, fueling and preparing to attack. With hours before launch, most countries would have a window of opportunity to launch strikes with missiles or tactical aircraft, blowing up the missile on the pad. Japan, however, does not have the capability, and can only watch and hope its ballistic missile defense network works properly.

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