Japan is considering equipping its two Aegis vessels newly approved for development with long-range standoff missiles, capable of attacking enemy vessels from outside their firing range, government sources said Saturday.
The government may install such missiles on the two ships equipped with Aegis missile interceptor systems in response to increasing naval activities by Beijing in the East China Sea amid the tension over the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands, which Beijing claims and calls Diaoyu.
But deployment of the missiles could cause controversy over concerns that it could deviate from Japan's defense-oriented policy under the war-renouncing Constitution, potentially possessing the capability to strike enemy bases.
Japan's Cabinet approved Friday the building of the two vessels to enhance its defense capabilities in the face of the North Korean missile threat.
The Cabinet also gave the nod to a plan to develop standoff missiles for use in various platforms to launch not only from land but also from ships and aircraft, which will make it more difficult for other countries to respond.
Defense policymakers from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party had raised the idea of installing standoff missiles on the new ships, which are expected to take a minimum of eight years to be constructed.
The acquisition of standoff missiles was outlined in the National Defense Program Guidelines compiled in 2018 as a defense strategy to combat naval vessels and land-based attacks.
Plans to develop them aboard F-15 fighter jets have stalled due to increasing costs. The government is also in the process of procuring anti-ship missiles for the F-35 fighter jets, while developing hyper velocity gliding projectiles for the defense of remote islands.
FOCUS: Japan's additional Aegis ships could encourage further arms buildup
Japan OKs building of 2 Aegis ships as alternative to on-land system