The country's defense minister hints that Tokyo could further leave behind state pacifism
Japan is considering several options aimed at beefing up its defenses, including the establishment of "counterattack capabilities," the country's Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada has revealed. He cited recent missile launches by North Korea as the reason for this major departure from Tokyo's long-standing pacifist policy.
Speaking during a briefing on Tuesday, Hamada said Japan "will continue to examine all options - including so-called 'counterattack capabilities'." The minister stressed that the Land of the Rising Sun would not "rule out anything as we continue to work to fundamentally strengthen our defense abilities."
Hamada explained that the need for this major change to the country's defense doctrine had arisen from North Korea's threatening behavior in the region, not least its latest launches of ballistic missiles.
On Saturday, Pyongyang fired two rockets of this type shortly after a US-led joint anti-submarine drill took place in South Korea.
According to Seoul and Tokyo, it was the fourth such launch in just one week.
This was followed by another launch of a North Korean intermediate-range ballistic missile on Tuesday. The rocket traveled over Japan for the first time in five years.
Tokyo, Seoul and Washington have condemned the DPRK's show of force.
Following its defeat in World War II, Japan officially renounced its right to have a military and wage wars. The pacifist policies are even enshrined in Article 9 of the country's constitution.
However, the nation does have an army, known as the Japan Self-Defense Force. In recent years, there have also been calls in the country to do away with the existing constraints on its military capabilities.