The Japanese government is reportedly considering acquiring some serious firepower to counter the North Korea threat.
The Japanese Self-Defense Forces do not have offensive weaponry with the necessary range to preemptively eliminate North Korean missiles, such as the extended-range Scuds the North fired into the Sea of Japan in March.
To address this threat, Japan allegedly intends to purchase BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles, Popular Mechanic’s Kyle Mizokami revealed, citing Japanese paper Sankei Shimbun. Equipped with a 1,000-pound explosive warhead, the 18-foot missile can evade enemy radar systems and destroy targets 900 miles away.
The missiles, assuming Japan decides to purchase them, would likely be loaded onto the country’s Aegis destroyers, which can carry up to 90 Tomahawk cruise missiles.
Japan is also considering acquiring Aegis Ashore to boost its missile defenses, but the acquisition of offensive cruise missiles would represent a major shift in Japanese national security policy. Japan’s post-war pacifist policies strictly prohibit the incorporation of marines, aircraft carriers, and cruise missiles into the armed forces, which are exclusively for defense.
Under the leadership of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japan has expanded the scope of operations for the SDF. The army is reportedly training its first brigade of marines, and the Navy just commissioned its second Izumo-class helicopter carrier, which is essentially an aircraft carrier masquerading as a destroyer. Tomahawk cruise missiles would allow Japan to launch pre-emptive defensive strikes against North Korea’s weapons systems, even though it is more likely that Japan would use them for counterattacks.
After the launch of four ER Scuds in March, Japanese lawmakers began discussing enhancing the capabilities of Japan’s armed forces.
“Japan can’t just wait until it’s destroyed,” Hiroshi Imazu, head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s security committee and one of the first Japanese lawmakers to call for the development of strike capabilities, told The Washington Post in late March, adding, “It’s legally possible for Japan to strike an enemy base that is launching a missile at us, but we do not have the equipment or the capability.”
“I believe that we should consider having the capacity to strike,” General Nakatani, a former defense chief, told reporters.
An LDP security review panel proposed developing the capability to strike North Korean bases with cruise missiles as a form of retaliation for any act of aggression against Japan.
“The first missile attack can be met with our missile defense. But as for repetitive attacks, it is important to put under control the opponent’s launch sites and prevent second and further firing,” Itsunori Onodera, an LDP lawmaker and former defense minister, said in March, adding, “This is not a proposal about preemptive attacks, but about counter attacks to prevent the second missile launch.”
To acquire Tomahawk cruise missiles, Japan would need U.S. permission.
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