Photo/Illutration The Defense Ministry in Tokyo’s Ichigaya district (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Government officials envisage two particular scenarios that might require the use of the new capability to strike enemy bases preparing to attack Japan.

The primary weapon would be a long-range missile with a range in excess of 1,000 kilometers.

According to sources, one scenario would involve North Korea if it was found to be preparing a ballistic missile launch against Japan.

Japan, under the law, would be able to target the missile site if Japanese defense satellites picked up signs that North Korea was in the process of fueling ballistic missiles for aggressive action against Japan.

A North Korean naval vessel preparing to launch missiles against Japan would also be a potential target even if the ship was still in North Korean territorial waters.

If Pyongyang had already launched a ballistic missile, Japan would not only try to intercept it but also launch an attack on the base involved.

Until now, Japan only had the capacity to try to intercept such missiles while relying on the U.S. military to stage strikes against North Korean bases in such an eventuality.

The second major scenario that could come into play is if a nation with close ties to Japan comes under attack and the result presents a clear danger to Japan.

A spate of missile launches by North Korea earlier this year included one in November whose range included the U.S. mainland.

If North Korea is preparing to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile against the United States or has also already fired one, and the decision is made that Japan could also come under subsequent attack, Japan would be allowed to launch strikes against North Korean bases.

Use of the strike capability would also be possible if Taiwan came under military attack. If China does attack Taiwan, Japan would ratchet up its surveillance against a possible invasion of its islands around Okinawa that are close to Taiwan.

Despite such scenarios, Defense Ministry sources conceded that authorizing the use of strike capability would be extremely difficult because it could lead to international condemnation, despite efforts by the government to demonstrate it would be acting within its rights.