TOKYO: The Japanese government wants to extend the range of its Type 12 surface-to-ship missiles to at least 1,000km - and modify them to be launched from vessels and aircraft and to strike ground targets - in order to close the "missile gap" with China, local media reported.
An improved ground-launched version of the missile is expected to enter service two years earlier than originally planned, sometime in 2024, Japanese newspaper Yomiuri reported on Sunday, citing several government officials.
The newspaper claimed that Tokyo eventually wants "more than 1,000" such missiles deployed across the Nansei Islands.
The reported missile plan is said to be part of what the newspaper called a "Taiwan contingency" initiative. Last December, Japan's Self-Defence 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, RT reported.
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 defence-oriented constitution, which explicitly renounces war, RT reported.