Japan’s Two-Decade Arms Race Exposed with North Korea’s Missile Advances


North Korea has advanced Japan in their arms race that has lasted two decades, following North Korea’s successful rocket tests. Without the help from the U.S., Tokyo questions if they would be able to defend a Pyongyang regime’s missile strike. In this year alone, 21 ballistic missiles have been test fired by North Korea, under the leadership of Kim Jong Un. The international community and the country’s neighbors remain uncomfortable, because of the alarming amount of activity.

A senior commander of the Japanese military views North Korea’s progress as being faster than they expected. The country’s military is currently limited, when it comes to having a defense system for ballistic missiles. The senior didn’t want to be identified, due to not having authorization to speak to media. Although the ballistic missile defense (BMD) for Japan will be upgrading, it will not take place until at least April. The completion of new systems that will be designed to eliminate any incoming warheads will take years.

Japan isn’t able to accelerate their plans, due to having a tight budget and being constrained by their production schedules. The country’s only option may be to lean more and more on its alliance with the U.S., in hopes of guarding any future attacks. Another source, from the Japan Self Defence Forces (SDF) also believes that the support of the U.S. is their only option.

The arms race, between Tokyo and Pyongyang began in 1998. This was the result of North Korea firing a missile over Japan. In June of this year, North Korea had a medium range Musudan rocket that had an altitude of 620 miles (1,000 km), from a lofted trajectory. This achievement was a breakthrough for Pyongyang, allowing them to have warheads that would lob over Japanese BMD Aegis destroyers range and patrol the Sea of Japan.

Plans have been made by Japan’s Ministry of Defense to enhance the performance of their SM-3 missiles, from a small Aegis fleet. SM-3 missiles have been designed to attack a warhead, near the edge of space. Yet and still, some sources doubt that the missile would be able to fight against the Musudan. Because of this, Japan and the United States have jointly produced a more powerful SM-3 missile, which they call Block IIA. Japan has already made plans to purchase the missiles, next year, as the missiles near completion.