Tokyo's new national security strategy marks a historic change to Japan's self-defence policy since the end of World War II.

Japan's new strategy includes determination to possess “counterstrike
Japan's new strategy includes determination to possess “counterstrike" capability to preempt enemy attacks. (AA Archive)

Japan this week adopted a new national security strategy that includes determination to possess "counterstrike" capability to preempt enemy attacks and double its spending to gain a more offensive footing and improve its resilience to protect itself from growing risks from China, North Korea and Russia. 

The new strategy marks a historic change to Japan's exclusively self-defence policy since the end of World War II.

Here is a look at Japan's new security and defence strategies and how they will change the country's defence posture:

READ MORE: Japan shedding pacifist agenda in biggest defence overhaul since WWII

1- Counterstrike capability

The biggest change in the National Security Strategy is possession of "counterstrike capability" that Japan calls "indispensable." Japan aims to achieve capabilities "to disrupt and defeat invasions against its nation much earlier and at a further distance" within about 10 years.

This puts an end to the 1956 government policy that shelved capability to strike enemy targets and only recognised the idea as a constitutional last-ditch defence.

Japan says missile attacks against it have become "a palpable threat" and its current interceptor-reliant missile defence system is insufficient. North Korea launched missiles more than 30 times this year alone including one that overflew Japan, and China fired ballistic missiles into waters near southern Japanese islands.

Japan says the use of counterstrike capability is constitutional if it's in response to signs of an imminent enemy attack, but experts say it is extremely difficult to conduct such an attack without risking blame for striking first. Opponents say strike capability goes beyond self-defence under Japan's pacifist constitution.

READ MORE: Japan eyes $318B defence spending as it shifts policy on preemptive strike

2- Doubling defence spending

Japan aims to double its defense spending to about two percent of its GDP to a total of about 43 trillion yen ($320 billion) through 2027. The new spending target will eventually push Japan's annual budget to about 10 trillion yen ($73 billion), the world’s third biggest after the United States and China.

3- Long-range missiles

Over the next five years, Japan will spend about 5 trillion yen ($37 billion) on long-range missiles, whose planned deployment begins in 2026. Japan will purchase US-made Tomahawks and Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles, while Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industry will improve and mass-produce a Type-12 surface-to-ship guided missile. Japanese defense officials said they are still finalising Tomahawk purchase details.

Japan says it will also develop other types of arsenals, such as hypersonic weapons and unmanned and multi-role vehicles for possible collaboration with the F-X next-generation fighter jet Japan is developing with Britain and Italy for deployment in 2035.

READ MORE: US, South Korea and Japan hit North Korea with fresh sanctions

4- Cybersecurity

Japan, lacking sufficient cybersecurity and intelligence capability, will have to heavily rely on the United States in those areas in launching long-range cruise missiles at intended targets, experts say.

“Without cybersecurity, Self-Defence Force superiority or Japan-US interoperability is difficult to achieve," according to the five-year defence program also adopted Friday, acknowledging the need to ensure cybersecurity at the SDF and Japanese defense industry.

Japan says it will spend 8 trillion yen ($58 billion) over the next five years on cross-domain defence including cybersecurity and space.

5- The China Challenge

Fear of a regional security environment described as "the severest and most complicated" in the postwar era has been a driving force behind the revision to Japan's strategy.

Japan's new security strategy looks at China as "an unprecedented and the greatest strategic challenge" to the peace and security of Japan.

Tomohisa Takei, a retired admiral in Japan's navy, says while North Korea keeps advancing its nuclear and missile capabilities, the main threat is still China, for which Japan has had to prepare "by using North Korea’s threat as a cover."

Self-Defence? 

Because of its wartime past as aggressor and devastation after its defeat, Japan's postwar policy prioritised the economy over security by relying on American troops stationed in Japan under their bilateral security agreement, in a division of roles known as "shield and dagger."

Prospects for even closer operation with the US military under the new strategy has prompted concerns that Japan would take more offensive responsibility.

Japan says it will keep its pacifist principle of high standards for arms equipment and technology transfer. 

But some easing is planned to allow currently restricted exports of offensive equipment and components, including those of the next-generation F-X fighter jet, as a way to strengthen the country's defense equipment industry.

READ MORE: Japan, Britain and Italy to jointly build next-gen fighter jet by 2035

Source: AP