The Japanese government will draw up new missile defense measures by the end of this year, after it has scrapped a program to introduce the Aegis Ashore land-based missile interceptor system, outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a statement Friday.
“In thorough consultations with the ruling parties,” the government “will identify policies to be undertaken by the end of this year to respond to the severe security environment surrounding Japan,” said Abe, who is set to step down for health reasons.
The statement did not mention the possible possession by the country of enemy base attack capability, included in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s recommendations last month. Komeito, the LDP’s coalition partner, is cautious about holding such capability.
It is unusual for a sitting prime minister to issue such a statement just before leaving office.
“I hope that the issue will be fully discussed under the next cabinet, as well,” Abe told reporters at the prime minister’s office on the same day. He added that the statement “will not constrain” the next cabinet.
The statement was released after the day’s National Security Council meeting. Abe stopped short of formalizing it through cabinet approval, considering Komeito’s position.
In the statement, Abe voiced concerns about North Korea’s improving nuclear and missile technologies, and pointed to a need for Japan to have “an interception capability to defend itself from threats of ballistic missiles and others.”
At the same time, he questioned whether it would be possible for the government to protect the people’s lives “only by enhancing our interception capability,” suggesting that Japan should possess enemy base attack capability.
“I believe it is necessary to enhance deterrence and thereby further reduce the possibility of an attack against Japan by ballistic missiles and others,” Abe said.
Following the decision to abandon the Aegis Ashore program, Abe told a press conference in June that the government would refine its security strategy this summer.
In his Aug. 28 press conference where he announced his resignation, Abe indicated his eagerness to start talks on the matter with Komeito soon. Coordination for the talks in the ruling bloc has been unsuccessful, however, due to reluctance within Komeito.