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'Japan should deploy mid-range missiles in Hokkaido': ruling party foreign affairs chief

Masahisa Sato, the head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's Foreign Affairs Division, speaks at an event held by U.S. thinktank Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington, on May 3, 2022. (Mainichi/Shinichiro Nishida)

WASHINGTON (Mainichi) -- The foreign affairs chief of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) said on May 3 that the country should deploy surface-launched intermediate-range missiles in the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido to deter missile attacks from China, Russia and North Korea.

    Masahisa Sato, the head of the LDP Foreign Affairs Division, expressed the thoughts at an event held in Washington by the Center for Strategic & International Studies, a U.S. thinktank.

    The LDP submitted a national security proposal to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on April 27, including acquiring "counterstrike capability" allowing preemptive strikes on enemy missile or other bases before they could hit Japan. Sato argued that, to counter China and its some 1,900 short- and medium-range missiles that can reach Japan, Tokyo should be able to launch land-based standoff missiles capable of hitting targets from outside an enemy's missile range, in addition to air-, submarine- and surface vessel-launched missiles. He added, "Deploying Japanese and U.S. intermediate-range missiles in Hokkaido will be the first step toward building land-based counterstrike capabilities in cooperation with the U.S."

    Sato also revealed a plan to deploy some standoff missiles at Self-Defense Forces' exercise areas in Hokkaido and other locations, stating, "(Prefectural) resident sentiment is relatively favorable to both the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military, and the residents' concerns over Russia are rising." He continued that Hokkaido-based missiles would also contribute to defense of Japan's southwestern islands, and should be put on mobile launchers so they could be moved to western Japan.

    The U.S. military has been rushing to develop surface-launched missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, which had been banned under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, since it expired in August 2019. With an eye toward China, the U.S. is believed to be looking at deploying mid-range missiles along a chain of Pacific islands including Japan's southernmost prefecture of Okinawa, Taiwan, and the Philippines. Sato commented, "I personally think that deploying U.S. intermediate-range missiles anywhere in Japan except Hokkaido would be difficult."

    (Japanese original by Shinichiro Nishida, North America General Bureau)

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