Photo/Illutration Itsunori Onodera, chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party's Research Commission on Security, speaks with reporters. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

A ruling Liberal Democratic Party panel decided to propose allowing Japan to attack an enemy missile base but under terminology that removes impression of pre-emptive strikes, according to sources.

Itsunori Onodera, chairman of the LDP’s Research Commission on Security, revealed that "counterattack capability" would be the new term at a meeting on April 21.

The possibility of the Self-Defense Forces’ striking an enemy base about to launch a missile against Japan was first broached by Shinzo Abe when he was prime minister.

But junior coalition partner Komeito objected to any connotation that the attack could be pre-emptive.

Others raised questions about whether striking enemy bases would go against the long-held exclusively defensive posture of Japan.

The Research Commission on Security has now met for four straight days, indicating the difficulty of coming up with a term that would not be found objectionable.

Other concerns were raised in coming up with a term for the new SDF function.

Some officials said the use of “enemy bases” in the term was outdated because there are signs that North Korea is increasingly moving toward launching its missiles from submarines.

Discussions among senior committee members, including a number of former defense ministers, also focused on other aspects of possible strikes against opposing forces, such as whether they could target command and control functions of the enemy.

Abe recently said strikes against foreign adversaries should not be limited to enemy bases but include the core of the enemy military as well.

Although some commission members suggested the strikes could target the command and control function of the enemy, others pointed out that other nations did not generally declare beforehand what they would be attacking.

An ambiguous description of possible enemy targets would also leave open room for an ever-expanding target list, and some lawmakers felt there was a need to place some form of brake on the range of targets.

The LDP has already approved a proposal to call on the government to raise defense spending to at least 2 percent of gross domestic product within five years.

The proposals put together by the research commission will be pushed up the LDP procedural ladder before being submitted to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

Kishida has said he wanted to continue discussions of what to include for the new SDF function until the end of the year. But the Diet may decide to deliberate the issue with an eye toward this summer’s Upper House election.