Japan’s plans to build new Aegis-equipped ships, improve missile capability deemed unconstitutional

TOKYO, Dec. 9 (Xinhua) — The Japanese government’s plan to build two naval vessels equipped with Aegis missile interceptors has met with resistance from opposition parties who believe, along with plans to enhance missile capability, that the plans might be unconstitutional.

At a Liberal Democratic Party meeting on defense and security related matters on Wednesday, Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said Japan is planning to develop standoff missiles that could be launched at targets from outside the range of enemy missiles.

Japan’s Defense Ministry is looking to secure around 30 billion yen (287.84 million U.S. dollars) for the next fiscal year starting in April, to bring the development to fruition, it has said.

While ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lawmakers in attendance approved the plans, with the ministry hoping they will be approved by the Cabinet as soon as mid-December, Kishi’s plans have drawn staunch resistance from opposition parties.

Opposition lawmakers have said that the advancement of such military hardware runs contrary to Japan’s pacifist Constitution.

Article 9 of Japan’s war-renouncing Constitution states that “Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.”

It also states that “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained.”

Jun Azumi, Diet affairs chief of the major opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, said the ministry’s plans could run counter to the country’s postwar defense policy.

“It could deviate from the country’s postwar defense policy,” Azumi was quoted as telling reporters.

In papers distributed to the lawmakers during the meeting, the ministry said that it is considering installing interceptor missiles that are capable of countering a number of aerial threats.

These include from cruise missiles and fighters. The main purpose however is to counter ballistic missiles, the paper said.

The ministry said it will take five years to develop the standoff missiles that will be able to be launched from both land and from ships and vessels.

After the high-profile scrapping of the U.S.-developed Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense systems in northeastern and western Japan in June, following a litany of gaffes and bungles, the Defense Ministry had initially devised three replacement offshore plans, sources with knowledge of the matter said.

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