News

    Japan Mulls Missile Defense Capability

    In wake of the missile tests by North Korea last week, Japanese politicians have begun discussing whether the country should have the capability to counter-attack foreign bases if it is threatened. At present, Japan has to rely on its ally, the United States, to thwart any threats. 

    The splashdown of seven North Korean missiles into the Sea of Japan on July 5 is causing Japanese leaders to re-evaluate the country's defense.

    A number of conservative politicians say the time has come for Japan to look at having the ability to attack foreign missile bases, particularly in North Korea.

    Such discussions would have been taboo for most of Japan's post-World War II history, when the country's pacifist Constitution was more strictly interpreted. But a 1998 ballistic missile launch by North Korea and Japan's role in the global war on terrorism have loosened interpretations of the Constitution's Article 9, which renounces war.

    In recent days, senior politicians have let loose a barrage of hawkish comments.

    Tsutomu Takebe, the secretary general of the governing Liberal Democratic Party, says it would be unthinkable for Japan to just sit and wait for a missile to land on it. He says the country has to begin preparing for such an eventuality and to explain the issue to the public.

    That sort of talk is bound to anger not only North Korea, at whom it is aimed, but also other countries where memories of Japan's brutal 20th century colonialism have not faded, notably China and South Korea. Both have charged that Japanese militarism is reviving and both say Tokyo has never properly atoned for its past.

    In response to North Korea's missile tests, Japan has taken a tough stance, demanding United Nations sanctions against Pyongyang. Beijing and Seoul, however, want a less strident action.

    The United States has been working to create a united response to the launches from the four countries. Washington has backed Japan on sanctions but says it is willing to see if diplomatic efforts by Seoul and Beijing lead to a breakthrough with North Korea.

    In Japan, the LDP's tough talk makes the political left nervous. Although the strength of leftist parties in Japan has waned over the past 20 years, they still are a force in Parliament and will attempt to block what they see as any move back toward militarism.

    Tadayoshi Ichida, secretary general of the Japan Communist Party, which holds 18 seats in Parliament, says the idea is unacceptable because a pre-emptive strike would be unconstitutional. He says such moves could also lead to Japan becoming enmeshed in an endless regional arms race.

    Even the Liberal Democratic Party's coalition partner has reservations. The head of the Komei party, Tadanori Kanzaki, urges caution.

    Kanzaki says firing on an enemy base could start a war. That alone, he adds, should give pause.

    Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi endorses the idea of thoroughly debating the issue.

    The prime minister says the constitutional aspects need to be carefully discussed. But he says one problem that is obvious to him initially is how to tell if another country is really preparing to attack.

    However, Mr. Koizumi appears to be leaning in the direction of the hawks, saying he believes that Japan needs its own deterrence capability.

    Tokyo already has committed to spending billions of dollars to join with the United States in developing a system to shoot down missiles launched from abroad before they hit the country. But Japan has never developed any capability to attack missile bases because the U.S. has pledged to provide such protection. 

    Those on both sides of the debate go back into Japan's post-war history to back their arguments.

    Defense Agency officials say as early as 1956 the government informed lawmakers that if there was no other way to defend Japan from a missile attack, then firing on enemy bases was within the country's legal right.

    Opponents point to a 1959 decision not to develop such capability based on the argument that the Americans who wrote the Constitution after Japan's defeat in World War II never intended for it to have weapons that could threaten another country.

    The debate could go on for years, which means that Japan is a long way from being able to attack missile bases in North Korea or any other country. Tokyo will therefore continue relying on the United States to counter any threat.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roari
    X
    June 28, 2016 10:33 AM
    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora