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Japan needs fight-style reform

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Defense Minister Taro Kono has scrapped a plan to deploy Aegis Ashore, a land-based missile defense system. The decision has triggered a series of debate within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Japan’s future defense posture including the issue of “enemy base strike capability.”

Kono reportedly attributed his decision to a technical problem with the system’s rocket boosters, which may fall outside safe areas. The decision is unacceptable if the boosters were the reason for the cancellation. But if the decision were part of a broader strategic consideration to reform the nation’s obsolete style of war-fighting, it is to be commended.

By the same token, I am also ambivalent about the LDP’s internal discussions. Debate on Japan’s strike capability against an enemy base is hardly new. On Feb. 29, 1956, the chief of the then Defense Agency, speaking on behalf of the prime minister, testified in the Diet that “Hitting an attacker’s base is within the scope of self-defense.”

Since this 1956 testimony, however, no weapon systems capable of striking enemy bases have been introduced to the Self-Defense Forces. This is partly because the testimony only stated that “In the event of an urgent and unjustifiable attack by an enemy, the Constitution would not require us to wait for self-destruction.”

No wonder subsequent Diet debate has been either metaphysical or hypothetical and, therefore, surreal. It would be a waste of time for the LDP to only focus on this decades-old theological concept. What Japan truly needs now is what I call “fight-style reform”, i.e.,........

© The Japan Times