Tokyo is eyeing the development of cruise missiles to launch pre-emptive strikes on North Korean missile bases, the Sankei Shimbun reported Wednesday.
The daily said the Japanese government is likely to put a clause paving the way for such missiles into a revised 10-year defense plan at the end of this year.
Takeshi Iwaya, a lawmaker who heads a security committee in the ruling Democratic Liberal Party, told party members Tuesday, "Japan relies on the U.S. for the capability to hit enemy bases. Whether Japan can acquire part of that capability will be a major point in the defense plan."
Earlier, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the Diet that Japan needs to "consider acquiring the means to hit enemy bases in accordance with the changing international political situation."
At present, Japan's pacifist postwar Constitution prohibits it from acquiring pre-emptive attack weapons. In 2004, Tokyo considered developing a cruise missile with a range of 300 km but scrapped the plan due to mounting public concern that they would violate the non-aggression principles.
In 2009, the DLP looked at buying cruise missiles but the plan was shelved when it lost the general election.
But amid a general lurch to the right, Abe recently said striking North Korean missile bases could be considered "self defense" if there are no other ways to deal with such threats.
North Korea is estimated to have 150 to 200 Rodong missiles with a range of 1,300 km. A DLP official told the Sankei Shimbun, "There are concerns that it is not easy to deliver preemptive strikes on specific targets, since North Korea has mobile missiles, but cruise missiles could be used to attack key facilities of the regime."
Experts say Japan is capable of building a long-range missile any time it wants since it already has a rocket that can put a satellite into orbit.