The Duck of Minerva

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Missile Diplomacy


July 10, 2006

As the response to North Korea’s missile launch last week heats up, its clear that Japan was really spooked by what happened.

The AP reports, via ABC news:

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.

This is not the Bush administration, this is Japan, they of the pacifist constitution and no “army.” The US has long maintained a “deep engagement” policy centered around 100,000 troops based in the East Asian theater . The strong US presence allows a degree of political stability so that Japan, South Korea, China, and Taiwan can focus on economic growth and not worry about an arms race–mostly focused on Japan. In Korea (North and South) there are many bitter memories of Japanese colonial occupation prior to and through WWII, and much of the harsh North Korean rhetoric of being a “guerillaa state” is directed at Japan, not just the USA.

If Japan is even half way– no a quarter way– serious about this preemptive strike notion, it would be quite the political / security earthquake in East Asia. Certainly makes for living in interesting times.

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Dr. Peter Howard focuses on US foreign policy and international security. He studies how the implementation of foreign policy programs produces rule-based regional security regimes, conducting research in Estonia on NATO Expansion and US Military Exchange programs and South Korea on nuclear negotiations with North Korea.