In the event of a North Korean nuclear attack on Guam, Japan’s new defense minister said Thursday that his country’s military could shoot down the missiles before they reach the U.S. territory.
In such a scenario, Japan has the right to activate its Aegis destroyer missile defense system, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said during a session of the National Diet, Japan’s parliament.
Any attack against Guam would be considered an existential threat to Japan, the defense minister said, also citing a mutual defense agreement with the United States.
Previously, Japan has said it would shoot down North Korean missiles only if they were directed toward Japan, but last year, Japan enacted a new defense policy, allowing its military to defend U.S. territories and other allies against attack.
Japan lies only about 620 miles to the east of North Korea, which has conducted numerous missile tests this year.
Onodera’s comments reflected what observers have viewed as Japan’s growing interest in reviving its military and taking a more aggressive stance in the affairs of the Asia-Pacific region than it has since the end of World War II.