Offensive Strike in Asia: A New Era? – War on the Rocks

There has been both applause and anxiety in the wake of reports that Japan is considering the development of long-range missile systems. The move would be a significant shift in the country’s capabilities, and it has alarmed many Japanese who believe that the acquisition would transform their country’s military profile and could destabilize the nation and the region — and many others throughout East Asia share that apprehension.

But in the U.S. security community, the predominant response has been cheers and celebration. This should come as no surprise: Washington has long pressed Tokyo to do more for its defense and to acquire capabilities that allow it to contribute more to regional security. The news has also received strong support in the United States because it follows the Japanese government’s unexpected and disappointing decision to scrap plans to buy an American-made missile defense system, Aegis Ashore, as a result of high costs, technical issues, and public opposition — including from local chapters of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party — in cities where the system was to be deployed.

Is this reason to celebrate? Our answer is a cautious and qualified “yes.” From a U.S. perspective, the acquisition of offensive strike options by allies makes sense only if they are developed within an alliance framework and with proper guardrails, and if they are deployed in consultation and cooperation with allies and partners. No ally is proposing to develop and deploy these capabilities without liaising with the United States, but it