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Kevin Maher

【#931】Japan Should Provide Ukraine with Surface-to-ship Missiles

Kevin Maher / 2022.06.20 (Mon)

June 20, 2022

There are times in history in which extraordinary circumstances require exceptional measures. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has brought the world to one of those moments.

Japan’s quick decisions in support of international economic and financial sanctions against Russia were most welcome, as were Japan’s contributions to Ukraine of such things as military helmets and bullet proof vests. But it is time for Japan to do more to help Ukraine resist Russian aggression.

Extraordinary times require extraordinary decisions

It is imperative that the Russian blockade of Ukraine’s ports on the Black Sea be broken. As the UN World Food Programme has reported, Russia’s blocking of grain exports from Ukraine is causing severe food shortages in much of the world. Many developing countries are on the verge of widespread famine because of Russia’s unwarranted aggression against Ukraine.

One way to help break the Russian blockade would be for Japan to provide Ukraine with Japan’s Type 12 surface-to-ship missile system. The Type 12 SSM, developed and produced by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, is a modern coastal defense missile system with a range of 200 kilometers or longer.

The Type 12 SSM would provide Ukraine with an effective defense system against Russian ships in the Black Sea. I understand it also can be used as a surface-to-surface missile, which would provide Ukraine with additional capabilities to defend itself against Russian land attack. It would be a very significant contribution to defeating Russia and restoring peace.

I am aware of course that sending Japan’s Type 12 SSM to Ukraine may require a change in the Government of Japan’s policy on export of lethal defense equipment. If that is the case, then it is time for the Government of Japan to change that policy. This might be politically difficult, but extraordinary times require extraordinary decisions and leadership.

A decision on this should be made quickly because the longer Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is allowed to continue, the more difficult the situation becomes. Supplying Ukraine with a Japanese missile system would not only greatly assist Ukraine. It also would greatly assist much of the world which depends on Ukrainian grain for its food supply.

Contributions to international peace

Beyond that, it would be a very clear message to China, North Korea, and Russia that Japan is now realistic and serious about national security issues. It would be a clear signal that Japan has moved beyond the post-World War II order during which Japan restricted itself from taking the measures needed to effectively defend itself and also needed to make concrete contributions to international peace and security. It would demonstrate that Japan has the capabilities to defend itself, and it would be a deterrent against potential Chinese, North Korean, and Russian aggression in East Asia.

I believe the Japanese public would support such a decision. Such a decision also would be welcomed by Japan’s allies, friends, and partners around the world, because it would demonstrate that Japan has become a true contributor to world peace and stability.

Kevin Maher is a former Director at the Office of Japanese Affairs, U.S. Department of State.