16:54 JST, January 23, 2023
In light of Japan revising its three security-related documents, the Japanese and US governments are poised to accelerate talks on reviewing the division of roles in security arrangements and developing integrated deterrence in the region.
Since Washington has formulated a policy of not deploying ground-launched medium-range missiles in Japan for the time being, Tokyo’s acquiring of counterattack capabilities will play an important role in deterring China. Reinforcing integrated capabilities between Japan and the United States will be key to enhancing deterrence.
In the Japan-US security arrangements to date, the US military is supposed to assume the role of the “sword” for offensive purposes and Japan’s Self-Defense Forces the role of the “shield” for defensive purposes.
But with Japan adopting counterattack capabilities through the revision of the three defense-related documents, including the National Security Strategy, the SDF will be able to play part of the role as a “sword” as well.
At the Japan-US Security Consultative Talks, commonly called the 2-plus-2 talks, of foreign and defense chiefs held on Jan. 11 and the summit between Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and US President Joe Biden on Jan. 13, the two countries agreed to “modernize” the alliance, given Japan’s decision to acquire counterattack capabilities
The Biden administration supports that acquisition as bolstering deterrence in the region. Such decisions can be considered convenient for the United States, which advocates integrated deterrence by strengthening partnerships with its allies.
The biggest challenge in enhancing counterattack capabilities is improving interoperability between the SDF and the US military. In identifying such targets as an enemy’s missile launch site, it is necessary to build up an information-gathering system. Since Japan’s satellites, drones and other capabilities are limited, seamless support from the US military is indispensable, and both countries agreed to strengthen cooperation in targeting as well during the 2-plus-2 talks.
According to the US Defense Department’s analysis, China will by 2027 have stronger military capabilities in regard to Beijing’s desire to unify Taiwan with the mainland. The US military aims to deploy medium-range missiles on the so-called first island chain, which traces the Japanese archipelago to the Philippines, so as to counter the Chinese military. China has been strengthening its missile capabilities as a Taiwan contingency becomes more of a real possibility.
China envisions an anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) strategy to prevent US forces from entering the first island chain and to block US military operations within the second island chain, which stretches from the Izu Islands to Guam.
At the core of Beijing’s strategy will be medium-range ballistic missiles from its Dong Feng series: the DF-21D, an anti-ship missile known as an “aircraft carrier killer,” and the DF-26, aka the “Guam killer” as it is capable of reaching the US territory.
It is also believed that the Chinese military will try to sixteen control of the skies with a large number of fighter jets.
If US forces cannot enter the first island chain, Chinese forces will have the upper hand in that region. It is Japanese and US missiles that will play the role of preventing such a situation from occurring.
The US military is developing several intermediate-range missiles in addition to a long-range hypersonic weapon. The Pentagon is converting the Tomahawk cruise missile, which is primarily launched from the sea, to a ground-launched version.
Japan plans to improve its Type 12 surface-to-ship missiles and together with Tomahawks to be deployed in the nation through the acquisition of counterattack capabilities, Tokyo and Washington will cooperate to strengthen deterrence against Beijing.