Japan Wants To Turn The Guns Back On North Korea In A Crisis

Ryan Pickrell | China/Asia Pacific Reporter

Facing North Korea’s advancing nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities, Japanese leadership wants the ability to open fire on its aggressive neighbor.

North Korea launched four extended-range scud missiles into the Sea of Japan earlier this month in what state media called a rehearsal for a strike on American military bases in Japan. In the immediate aftermath, Japanese lawmakers began calling for the development of preemptive strike capabilities. Since then, the argument that the vulnerable island nation has the right to defend itself and should develop the firepower necessary to do so has become much more pervasive.

“Japan can’t just wait until it’s destroyed,” Hiroshi Imazu, head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s security committee and one of the first Japanese lawmakers to call for the development of strike capabilities, told The Washington Post Monday, adding: “It’s legally possible for Japan to strike an enemy base that is launching a missile at us, but we do not have the equipment or the capability.”

“I believe that we should consider having the capacity to strike,” General Nakatani, a former defense chief, told reporters.

The LDP said Wednesday that Japan, which is highly sensitive to the North Korean nuclear threat given its past experiences with atomic weaponry, needs the ability to respond to a North Korean attack.

“North Korea’s provocative acts are reaching levels our country can simply no longer overlook,” an LDP security panel argued in a proposal submitted to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is in favor of enhancing Japan’s military capabilities.

The panel advised analyzing retaliation and response tactics, which could involve striking North Korean bases with cruise missiles. Their recommendations did not include plans for a preemptive strike, hitting an enemy before they engage, as some Japanese lawmakers previously suggested.

“The first missile attack can be met with our missile defense. But as for repetitive attacks, it is important to put under control the opponent’s launch sites and prevent second and further firing,” Itsunori Onodera, an LDP lawmaker and former defense minister, said Thursday, adding, “This is not a proposal about preemptive attacks, but about counter attacks to prevent the second missile launch.”

“Our assessment is that threat from North Korea has advanced to a new stage, and this assessment is shared by the United States,” Abe said. “We intend to grasp today’s proposal firmly.”

The proposal also encouraged bolstering the country’s missile defense systems.

The LDP security panel argued that Japan should “immediately consider” the deployment of a U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system and a shore-based Aegis missile defense system on Japanese soil to shield the country from attack.

Since the end of World War II, Japan has maintained a limited military for defense purposes only. The current Japanese government, however, has pushed to expand the scope of operations for the Japanese self-defense forces, the term for Japan’s armed forces, which are in the process of boosting their combat capabilities.

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