Japan is continuing to put distance between its new defense policy and its post-World War II "peace constitution."
A Japanese Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) E-767 Airborne Warning and Control Aircraft, center, leads a squadron of fighter jets over Denali National Park, Alaska, in a joint U.S. and Japanese formation flight commemorating the opening day of the Cooperative Cope Thunder joint military exercise on July 15.
Planners are seeking to develop long-range precision-guided missile technology capable of attacking enemy ballistic missile bases, according to a draft outline of the mid-term defense buildup plan for fiscal years 2005-2009.
The proposal signals a possible shift in Japan's defense-oriented policy since long-range missiles could be used to attack overseas targets, including ballistic missile sites.
The draft outline, presented on Dec. 3 by the government at a meeting of the Liberal Democratic Party's National Defense Division, calls for development of device to be installed on aircraft to jam enemy radar and fire a missile having a range of several hundred kilometers to attack enemy bases.
The device, coupled with the introduction of airborne refueling aircraft and precision-guided bombs, would make it theoretically possible for the Self-Defense Forces to attack "enemy bases" overseas.
The item pertaining to long-range precision missile technology is included in a section on the development of science and technology. Also featured are plans to develop an electronic interception device.
The cabinet is expected to finalize and approve the draft after the government finishes the revised National Defense Program Outline.
In line with of its defense-only policy, Japan has complied with a self-imposed ban on offensive weapons.
But in late September, the Defense Agency called for Japan to consider possessing these weapons, including surface-to-surface missiles having a range of several hundred kilometers in order to bolster Tokyo's ability to attack ground targets in the event that Japan is threatened with an attack.
Tokyo was stunned in August 1998 when North Korea launched a ballistic missile that flew over Japanese territory.
A recent CIA report claims Pyongyang may be ready to test-fire a long-range ballistic missile "potentially capable of reaching parts of the United States with a nuclear-weapon-sized payload."