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North Korea may have awoken the Japanese military impulse, this time in self-defense, with its missile launches. The Chief Cabinet Secretary announced that Tokyo would rethink the common interpretation of its constitution that restricts Japanese military action to self-defense in terms of a pre-emptive strike on any missiles Pyongyang stages in the future:
Japan said Monday it was considering whether a pre-emptive strike on the North's missile bases would violate its constitution, signaling a hardening stance ahead of a possible U.N. Security Council vote on Tokyo's proposal for sanctions against the regime.
Japan was badly rattled by North Korea's missile tests last week, and several government officials openly discussed whether the country ought to take steps to better defend itself, including setting up the legal framework to allow Tokyo to launch a pre-emptive strike against Northern missile sites.
"If we accept that there is no other option to prevent an attack ... there is the view that attacking the launch base of the guided missiles is within the constitutional right of self-defense. We need to deepen discussion," Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said.
Japan's constitution bars the use of military force in settling international disputes and prohibits Japan from maintaining a military for warfare. Tokyo has interpreted that to mean it can have armed troops to protect itself, allowing the existence of its 240,000-strong Self-Defense Forces.
The AP notes that Japan does not have the type of weapons which would allow it to carry out a pre-emptive strike on missiles or launch sites -- at least not yet. Abe's announcement sends a signal that Japan may consider expanding its defensive military force to meet the new threat that North Korea insists on wielding in the region, and perhaps engage in an arms race with Pyongyang that Kim Jong-Il simply cannot afford.
More signals can be gleaned from this release as well. The UN Security Council will continue meeting to determine whether to impose sanctions on Kim's regime. Japan knows that China and Russia want to stall as long as possible before allowing sanctions of any kind to be imposed on its client state. However, China fears a remilitarized Japan. The Chinese have expanded their blue-water navy to attempt to control the western Pacific and to crowd the Americans out. If Japan determines that they need a massive naval expansion to deter Pyongyang, the Chinese will have to outpace two of the world's most productive Western economies -- and they will find that very difficult to do.
Abe wants to put pressure on Beijing with this announcement, not Pyongyang. Kim is too irrational to care about Tokyo; he has his eyes fixed on Washington. Hu Jintao operates on a more rational basis, however, and he will have a choice between propping up the North Korean nutcase or losing trillions of dollars to an arms race on which he had not counted. Japan wants Jintao to understand just how expensive Kim Jong-Il will become in the next few months and years unless Beijing puts a leash on their boy. (via It Shines For All, which has its own New York Sun link.)
UPDATE: Brant at SWLiP says the sake's on him.Sphere It View blog reactions
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