Japan will develop and mass produce a cruise missile and a high-velocity ballistic missile as it seeks the ability to strike more distant targets as part of a military expansion aimed at meeting threats from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Russia, officials announced in late August 2022.
The procurement plan unveiled in the Japanese Defense Ministry’s annual budget request represents a clear departure from a decadeslong range limit imposed on the Japan Self-Defense Forces, which constrains them to fielding missiles with ranges of a few hundred kilometers.
“China continues to threaten to use force to unilaterally change the status quo and is deepening its alliance with Russia,” the Defense Ministry said. “It is also applying pressure around Taiwan with supposed military exercises and has not renounced the use of military force as a way to unite Taiwan with the rest of China.”
Alarm about the PRC’s regional ambitions grew in August 2022 after the People’s Liberation Army fired five ballistic missiles into waters less than 160 kilometers from Japan during widely condemned live-fire drills around self-governed Taiwan.
The Defense Ministry also cited North Korea as a threat to Japan.
The budget request is to mass produce ground-launched cruise missiles to strike ships — an extended-range version of the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries-designed Type 12 missile now in use —and a new, high-velocity glide ballistic missile capable of hitting ground targets. (Pictured: A Japan Ground Self-Defense Force member passes a surface-to-ship missile system during a live-fire exercise in Gotemba in May 2022.)
The Defense Ministry is also seeking money to develop other projectiles, including hypersonic warheads. It did not give a range for the proposed weapons or say how many it planned to field, but they would likely be able to reach targets in China if deployed along Japan’s southwest Okinawa islands chain.
Japan has already ordered air-launched missiles, including the joint strike missile made by Norway’s Kongsberg and Lockheed Martin Corp.’s joint air-to-surface stand-off missile with a range of up to 1,000 kilometers.
The Defense Ministry requested a 3.6% spending increase to U.S. $39.78 billion for the year starting April 1, 2023, but it said that would rise based on the cost of new procurement programs.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’ government will approve the increase in late 2022 when it will also unveil a major defense strategy overhaul and new military buildup plan.
Kishida, who has described security in East Asia as “fragile” after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, has promised to substantially increase defense spending to prepare Japan for regional conflict.
His ruling Liberal Democratic Party has promised to double defense spending to 2% of gross domestic product over five years. That would make Japan the world’s third-biggest military spender behind its ally, the United States, and the PRC.
Japan’s military also wants to enhance its cyber defenses, electromagnetic warfare capabilities and space presence.
IMAGE CREDIT: AFP/GETTY IMAGES