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Abe to decide Japan policy on strike capability against missile bases

This file photo taken on the Hawaiian island of Kauai in January 2019 shows an Aegis Ashore missile-defense system at the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will set the policy direction on whether to acquire a strike capability against missile bases in other countries, government sources said Monday.

    Abe, who abruptly announced his resignation on Friday, will also hammer out an alternative plan for the costly land-based, U.S.-developed Aegis Ashore system, according to the sources. The planned deployment of the system, aimed at protecting the country from the North Korean missile threat, was scrapped by the Japanese government in June.

    Abe has informed executives of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which he heads, of his decision and is likely to map out a new security policy during a National Security Council meeting, possibly in the first half of September, before the next head of the LDP is selected, the sources said.

    The proposal has stirred controversy in light of Japan's war-renouncing pacifist Constitution as well as its exclusively defense-oriented policy and is strongly opposed by the Komeito party, the LDP's junior coalition partner.

    The government started full-fledged discussions in August on ways to counter ballistic missiles after receiving a proposal from a group of LDP lawmakers calling for acquiring the capability to strike missile bases in other countries to be considered.

    Regarding the country's new security policy, Abe said in the press conference at which he announced his resignation, "The ruling parties will promptly begin to coordinate and materialize it."

    Around Aug. 24, when he had decided to resign, Abe told Komeito executives, "I want to compile a plan in my remaining term (as prime minister)," and he urged them to hasten intraparty discussions, according to people close to him.

    In line with the LDP proposal, a plan is being floated that calls for the "possession of the ability to intercept ballistic missiles and others even in the territory of an opponent," stating that "specific equipment will be decided by the end of this year."

    Under the new prime minister, the National Defense Program Guidelines as well as the medium-term defense program are scheduled to be slightly revised by the end of this year, while the revision of the National Security Strategy has been postponed to next year, according to the sources.

    Among the alternatives being discussed for Aegis Ashore are the introduction of an interception system that would detect an incoming missile with high-grade radar on the ground and shoot it down with missiles launched from a sea-based platform, and simply building more Aegis destroyers equipped with missile interceptors.

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