The Japanese government wants to close the “missile gap” with China, a major Japanese newspaper reported on Sunday, citing several government officials. The government reportedly plans to extend the range of its surface-to-ship missiles to at least 1,000km – and modify them to be launched from vessels and aircraft and to strike ground targets.
An improved ground-launched version of Japan's Type 12 missile is expected to enter service in 2024, two years earlier than originally planned, the Yomiuri reported. The newspaper claimed that Tokyo eventually wants “more than 1,000” such missiles deployed across the Nansei Islands.
The missile plan is said to be part of what the newspaper called a “Taiwan contingency” initiative. Last December, Japan’s Self-Defense Forces (SDF) and the US military reportedly reached an agreement to establish an attack base on the Nansei Islands in the event of an “emergency,” should conflict break out between Taiwan and Beijing.
Tokyo officials cited by the country’s Kyodo News at the time said that if enacted, the plan would see US Marines stationed on the Nansei Islands at a temporary attack base, with the SDF providing support in the form of extra troops if a military threat to Taiwan was imminent.
In order to justify such “counterstrike capabilities,” Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party previously indicated that it wants to revise and partially classify the current National Security Strategy by the end of year, focusing on whether Japan can acquire weapons to strike enemy bases. The matter is a sensitive issue, given Japan’s defense-oriented constitution, which explicitly renounces war.
The Nansei Islands consist of around 200 isles, some uninhabited. Three of the isles – Amami-Oshima, Ishigaki, and Miyako – were reportedly being considered as homes for missile units, but their presence near the disputed Senkaku Islands could spark further anger from China over increased militarization in the region.