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Report: Japan Considering Buying Tomahawks for Destroyer Fleet to Deter North Korea

Japanese Aegis Destroyer JS Kongo (DDG-173) launches a SM-3 in 2007. U.S. Navy Photo

Officials in Japan are weighing arming their fleet of guided-missile destroyers with Tomahawk cruise missiles, according to a report in the Japanese press.

Late last week, the Kyodo news wire quoted a government official who said the Japanese government was interested in acquiring the land-attack strike missiles as a hedge against North Korean missile attacks.

“The government is eager to set aside funds to study the feasibility of acquiring the ability to strike enemy missile sites, and could do so in the draft budget for fiscal 2018, the official said Friday on condition of anonymity,” reported the wire.
“According to the official, the government is looking to purchase the Tomahawk cruise missile.”

Tomahawks would easily integrate into Japan’s fleet of guided-missile destroyers. Several Japanese Maritime Defense Force ship classes field the U.S.-designed Mk-41 Vertical Launch System cells that can easily accommodate the Tomahawk. How much modification the ships would need to include the necessary mission planning area is unclear.

News of Japanese interest in arming its fleet of guided-missile destroyers with offensive strike weapons comes as Japan continues to refine the interpretations of its pacifist constitution that’s rooted in the idea of self-defense. Since World War II, Japan has pledged not to create an offensive force but field a military that is rooted in protection of its territory.

In January, “Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said a decision to strike enemy launch sites when there is no alternative would fall under the category of self-defense under the reinterpreted war-renouncing constitution,” reported the news wire.

In addition to arming the fleet of destroyers with Tomahawks, reports over the last several months indicate Tokyo may look to other U.S. ballistic missile defense kit to further defend against a North Korean threat.

“North Korea’s provocative acts are reaching levels our country can simply no longer overlook,” a Japanese Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) security panel said late March.
“We can’t waste a moment to strengthen our ballistic missile defense.”

Previous systems that have been mention under consideration are the deployment of U.S. Army’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and a Japanese installation of the Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense system.