This ought to get the Chinese to put pressure on Pyongyang to disarm:
Japan has warned it would launch a pre-emptive military action against North Korea if it had firm evidence Pyongyang was planning a missile attack.
Defence Minister Shigeru Ishiba said it would be “a self-defence measure” if North Korea was going to “resort to arms against Japan”.
Mr Ishiba said it would be too late if a North Korean missile was already on its way.
Almost sixty years later, Japanese militarism remains the great bugaboo of East Asian politics. China would welcome Japanese forces (even if only planes and missiles) into the Korean Peninsula with about as much worry and disgust as a Vegan served a bloody rare steak.
What’s most interesting here is Ishiba’s formulation of a North Korean “threat” as a justification for a pre-emptive strike. First, he wisely echoes the policy of our current Administration to taking out the bad guys before they take out another office block. Or a city, as Pyongyang can do, or will soon be able to do. Second, the phrase “self-defence measure” is even more telling, as it is not-so-secret code to the Japanese people and leaders around the world.
By Article Nine of its constitution, Japan is forbidden to posses military forces, and forever forswore war as a means to achieve anything. However, Japan does have quite a lethal army, air force, and navy. Only instead of calling them by the typical names, they’re all under the banner of “Self-Defense Forces,” and have never been used outside Japan’s Home Islands. (Although Japan has recently and somewhat timidly entered the UN peacekeeping business.)
Now it seems Tokyo is willing to call a pre-emptive strike on forieng soil a self-defensive action. I’m not saying they’re wrong to do so — I am, in fact quite supportive of the idea. The new policy, should it stand, not only reinforces the American doctrine of pre-emptive war, but also takes some of the pressure off our forces in the North Pacific.
The Chinese won’t like this one bit. Tens of millions of Chinese died in the ’30s and ’40 under Japanese occupation, and thier memories are long, vivid, and perfectly reasonable. So, given the stark choice between a muscular Japan or a neutered North Korea, it’s a good guess China would go for the latter.
Problem is, the choice probably won’t be so stark. Consider it likely (although far from certain) that public pressure at home and abroad will force Ishiba to back down from his threat. And it will be a shame if he does.