Japan is considering easing the rules for using force against any intrusions by foreign balloons, according to its defense ministry, after reports that Chinese balloons had been seen flying over the country in the past years.
The ministry proposed at a meeting on Feb. 15 that Japan’s military be permitted to use weapons against intrusive objects, given that SDF law allows “necessary measures” to be taken against foreign aircraft intruding Japan’s airspace.
Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada made a similar assertion on Feb. 14 that Japan’s military can take necessary measures to bring down foreign balloons violating Japan’s airspace in order to protect its citizens.
“In taking this measure, the appropriate equipment will be used in accordance with the situation,” he told reporters.
The ministry did not specify the locations where the flying objects were spotted in 2019, 2020, and 2021. It stated that Tokyo contacted Beijing to verify the incidents and demanded that such an incursion never occur again.
Beijing previously condemned the U.S. move to shoot down its balloon as “a clear overreaction,” saying that the balloon was a civilian airship that had been blown off-course and posed no threat to national security.
However, Washington said it was likely a sophisticated high-altitude spying vehicle conducting surveillance over sensitive U.S. military sights, including nuclear bases in Montana.
‘Bulk-Order’ of US Tomahawk MissilesHamada announced on Tuesday that Japan plans to bulk-order Tomahawk cruise missiles from the United States by March next year as it begins a rapid military build-up.
Hamada said the government seeks to conclude a contract during the next financial year, which begins on April 1, to buy Raytheon Technologies Corp Tomahawks through the U.S. foreign military sales program.
Japan’s latest defense budget, which will jump by a quarter from last year, includes $1.6 billion to buy cruise missiles, part of its biggest military build-up since World War II.
Japan wants the cruise missile to give its military the capability to strike targets far from Japan to deter potential adversaries, including China, from attacking.
The ship-launched version of the munition, which can fly more than 621 miles, would have enough range to hit targets inside China.
The move is widely seen as a departure from Japan’s post-war constitution, which renounces war or the use of force in settling international disputes.
However, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said that Japan would maintain its exclusively defense-oriented policy, which states that defensive force could only be used in the event of an attack.