politics

Japan to consider first-strike alternative to Aegis Ashore by October

29 Comments
By Tim Kelly

Japan is to consider the acquisition of weapons able to strike enemy missile launchers to bolster defense against North Korea after a decision to cancel the Aegis Ashore missile defense system, the defense minister said on Thursday.

Any first-strike capability would represent a fundamental shift in Japan's military posture that could raise the concern of neighbors. The United States, Japan's main ally, has also had reservations about it gaining an independent strike capability.

The minister, Taro Kono, reignited debate this month over whether Japan should get the capability to strike enemy bases to stop North Korean ballistic missiles attacks and counter a perceived growing threat from China when he suspended deployment of two Aegis Ashore installations.

"I don't think we are excluding any option before discussions," Taro Kono told a news conference when asked whether a strike capability would be on the agenda of the National Security Council when it considers options.

Kono's surprise decision to cancel the Aegis Ashore system came after concern about its cost and the possibility of spent booster rockets falling into populated areas.

But even before Japan picked the missile-defense system in 2018, ruling party lawmakers had agreed that attacking missile bases did not contravene Japan's war-renouncing constitution because doing so would be an act of defense.

That conclusion prompted a decision to buy 1,000-km range air-launched cruise missiles that could hit North Korea from over the Sea of Japan.

But it would be difficult to use such missiles to hit mobile launchers without satellite targeting capability, which Japan does not have, experts say.

Kono said Japan would need to clearly define what it meant by a pre-emptive, or first, strike before considering whether it was a viable option.

Other alternatives to Aegis Ashore could include increasing the number of airborne early-warning aircraft or deploying drones that could monitor missiles sites and attack if a launch was seen as imminent.

Without an Aegis Ashore substitute, Japan would have to rely more on Aegis radar-equipped ships that patrol the Sea of Japan and Patriot missile batteries that are a last line of defense.

Keeping even two Aegis ships permanently on patrol, however, requires several vessels and hundreds of sailors.

Kono, a former foreign minister, also described recent Chinese activity in the disputed South China Sea and elsewhere in Asia as "alarming".

He also said he was "suspicious" about the state of health of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un following recent speculation he was not well. He did not elaborate.

Until recently, Kono has been seen as something of a dark horse in the race to succeed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, but in a Mainichi newspaper poll after his Aegis Ashore decision, he ranked third among voters as preferred next premier.

He has called for phasing out nuclear power, a stance at odds with government policy, and has advocated for a looser immigration policy.

© Thomson Reuters 2020.

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

29 Comments
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The problem is not Japan and or a plan for defense against a first strike. Been out here for over 30 yrs, and I have yet to see Japan take measures much less rhetoric to attack its neighbors or anyone. However can't say much for other neighbors who in the name of peace and research build islands out of sticking rocks above water and then militarize the place and threaten the neighborhood. hmmm

13 ( +19 / -6 )

Other alternatives to Aegis Ashore could include increasing the number of airborne early warning aircraft or deploying drones that could monitor missiles sites and attack if a launch were judged to be imminent.

While all options should be on the table, this one is plausible.

Japan also should respond effectively to the rise of China's military activity in disputed areas, often in "non-military" disguise (e.g. armed "fishery" boats).

19 ( +22 / -3 )

Dont even think about, just do it. The best defense is an offense, and under the first paragraph of Article 9. which nobody (even Abe) wants to change, Japan will never launch an offensive attack except to pre-empt an attack on Japan by another country.

9 ( +18 / -9 )

Japan's National Security Council may pick a replacement for the Aegis Ashore missile-defense system by October, according to public broadcaster NHK, and the country's prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has suggested one option could be a first-strike weapon.

How about diplomacy ....that would be way cheaper for the long suffering J-taxpayer.....Oh..not enough pork in that for weapons manufacturers hey?..ok, thats out then.

Japan will never launch an offensive attack except to pre-empt an attack on Japan by another country.

Yeah, thats pretty funny , you can guarantee that Japan could never invent a reason for " pre-empt" attack cause its never been done before huh?

" We have proof Saddam has WMD and is willing to use them against United States" ....ring any bells?

-7 ( +9 / -16 )

It cannot be self-defense unless the other party has struck first so a preemptive strike is definitely illegal according to the Japanese constitution.

-1 ( +13 / -14 )

Hello Kitty 321Today  05:55 pm JST

It cannot be self-defense unless the other party has struck first so a preemptive strike is definitely illegal according to the Japanese constitution.

Wrong. By your definition it would be illegal to shoot down a missle that is headed to one of your cities.

Four elements are required for self-defense: (1) an unprovoked attack, (2) which threatens imminent injury or death, and (3) an objectively reasonable degree of force, used in response to (4) an objectively reasonable fear of injury or death.

4 ( +15 / -11 )

It only takes another reinterpretation of the constitution? And that has already been done before by this Regime expect billions spent to further loose any chance of trust with neighbors. Sure the bill will be sent to you. And your children and you grandchildren and their if there are any their children. Conscription next.

-5 ( +4 / -9 )

If I were the neighbor of a country building first strike capabilities, what would I do? This does seem like an exceedingly foolish thing to announce publicly.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

In this case the neighbors, China and North Korea, have already first strike capabilities and are not shy about it. Japan also having first strike capabilities is actually a deterrent.

7 ( +12 / -5 )

@Robert

Japan also having first strike capabilities is actually a deterrent.

The problem is that North Korea is technically a territory of the ROK, meaning the ROK will automatically launch a counter strike at the point of origin if Japan attempted a preemptive strike.

If NK missile strikes Tokyo, then the ROK missile strike the NK launch point, but if the Japanese missile strikes NK, then the ROK will strike the Japanese launch point.

And Japan doesn't stand a chance against the ROK in missile shooting war; the ROK was equipped to win a missile shootout war against NK and literally has thousands of ballistic missiles, also the biggest and the most powerful conventional warhead ballistic missiles in the world.

-8 ( +5 / -13 )

A stronger Japan more independent will benefit both East Asia, United States, China.

The biggest role I see for Japan in the next century is to keep the peace between great powers. Avoiding another war in East Asia should be the main goal and strategic interest.

7 ( +11 / -4 )

@Nick Bart Balzano

ROK believes its their territory. It is not a technical fact at all.

It is. This is why North Koreans are never granted asylum when they defect to South; instead they simply register as newly arriving local residents as all North Koreans, even Kim Jong Un, are ROK citizens by law.

Anyhow, Abe administration already knows of this ROK position on Japan's preemptive strike against NK, so it's puzzling why Abe's still pursuing this preemptive strike idea against NK. In fact, Moon just reiterated this policy during today's 70th anniversary of Korean War speech today, that the ROK wouldn't allow an inch of its territory(NK inclusive) attacked.

-8 ( +2 / -10 )

One more thing I forgot to add. Japan is the only country in the world that has formally accepted North Korea as a territory of the ROK by treaty. It's in the 1965 basic treaty between Japan and Korea. Hence Japan cannot even establish a formal diplomatic relationship with North Korea without tearing up the 1967 treaty. There are a lot of screw-ups in the 1965 treaty that Japanese public doesn't know about, like leaving out the damages claims that is the basis of current legal struggle between forced laborers and Japanese companies, that Japan is blocked from normalizing diplomatic ties with North Korea, etc.

Hence if Japan preemptively strikes North Korea, Japan is preemptively striking an ROK territory, per terms of the 1965 treaty, and can expect a swift retaliatory strike from the ROK.

https://treaties.un.org/doc/Publication/UNTS/Volume%20583/volume-583-I-8471-English.pdf

Treaty on Basic Relations. Signed at Tokyo, on 22 June 1965

Article III

It is confirmed that the Government of the Republic of Korea is the only lawful Government in Korea as specified in the Resolution 195 (III) of the United Nations General Assembly.

-7 ( +2 / -9 )

Did the same thing at Pearl Harbor, look how it turned out for Japan

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

NIck Bart Balzano June 25 09:55 pm JST

A pre-emptive attack would mean shooting the missiles down before they were even launched or before their trajectory could be determined, and that's right out and totally against the Constitution.

In principle, yes.

Anyway, this is just a government proposal. Which will have to be debated first in the Diet. If approved, it will then ultimately be up to the Supreme Court to determine whether the proposal is legal or not.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

"Did the same thing at Pearl Harbor, look how it turned out for Japan"

Is N Korea, (even if combined with S Korea) on the same league as America was in 1942?!

Are Australia, NZ, Britain, India, Philippines, Canada, Russia, guerrillas from all over South East Asia going to gang up Japan, just like in 1942?

History, history; quo vadis?

4 ( +6 / -2 )

@OssanAmerica very good points you made there. Yeah it does make sense, because what’s a nation supposed to do, wait for a missile to actually hit one of its cities? Why I think not. And self-defense is fully protected under international law by the way.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Unless they choose to murder their dominators to become dominators themselves and, in either way, the beat goes on for us all into the foreseeable future...

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Japan is to consider the acquisition of weapons able to strike enemy missile launchers to bolster defense against North Korea ...

This is worse than acquiring Aegis Ashore missile defense systems. If this is allowed, Japan's nuclearization is also allowed. For one can say possessing WMDs is allowed under the constitution only if they were used for the defense of Japan. Then, SDF will be offensive strike forces, no doubt. 

Don't let militarism take hold of the nation again. Don’t let hawks like Kono and people of his ilk put Japan in a jeopardy again. Don't ever forget how WW II devastated the nation.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

As the only country in the world that was nuked not once but twice , of course Japan should do what it takes not to let history repeat itself again.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

@OssanAmerica

As you say, the first element required for self-defense is an unprovoked attack, but the first element required for a pre-emptive strike is that it comes first, that is what the 'pre' means, so that would mean that Japan was making the unprovoked attack.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Hello Kitty 321Today  02:23 pm JST

@OssanAmerica

As you say, the first element required for self-defense is an unprovoked attack, but the first element required for a pre-emptive strike is that it comes first, that is what the 'pre' means, so that would mean that Japan was making the unprovoked attack.

You are playing with semantics. The entire concept of "self defense" would not even exist if it meant that no action of any kind could be taken until you were already dead.

Rest asured that the right to self defense is already established in the Japanese Constitution, and a rational interpretation will include the right to stop another country from attcking Japan.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

An extremely good move in light of Chinese and not N Korean aggression. The"threat" by NK is probably not the reason for this sudden change. It is that huge population just beyond in China that is a major threat that the entire world is now waking up to but rather too late. For any country to "prepare" it will take years. China is already "poised" with their team stationed in almost every country in the world.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Japan should and must have the right to defend itself including first strike capabilities.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

> Dont even think about, just do it. The best defense is an offense, and under the first paragraph of Article 9. which nobody (even Abe) wants to change, Japan will never launch an offensive attack except to pre-empt an attack on Japan by another country.

Then it is contradictory to set up first strike capabilities, isn’t it?

It is also a colossal waste of money!

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

kurisupisuToday  10:08 am JST

Dont even think about, just do it. The best defense is an offense, and under the first paragraph of Article 9. which nobody (even Abe) wants to change, Japan will never launch an offensive attack except to pre-empt an attack on Japan by another country.*

Then it is contradictory to set up first strike capabilities, isn’t it?

No it's not. Paragraph 1 of Article 9 states that Japan will not use war to solve diplomatic disputes, in other words, will not "start" a war. However, Japan has, as do all sovereign nations, the right to self defense.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The best defense is an offense

I hope you don't think that feel-good saying is actually logical. Think about it. They are literally opposite things. An offense by definition can not be a defense. The above saying is a nice way of saying 'if you have a really good offense, you don't need a defense'. It doesn't actually mean that an offense is a defense. It's not. An offense is an offense. That's why it's called an offense.

America tried to claim it was defending itself from WMDs when it attacked Iraq. Except that there wasn't anything there to defend itself from. It was actually just America attacking a sovereign nation based on lies.

Maybe you're starting to see where the logic that the best offense is a good defense falls apart?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Other alternatives to Aegis Ashore could include increasing the number of airborne early-warning aircraft or deploying drones that could monitor missiles sites and attack if a launch was seen as imminent.

I could also envision Japan building and deploying more Izumo-class aircraft carriers with F-35Bs, especially in light of increased China activities in the China Sea regions and threats against Taiwan.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japan has a dilemma.  China has become very powerful and nationalists among the Chinese Communist Party nurse a grudge against the Japan as a way to justify their expansionist territorial claims.  Xi Jinping is supremely insecure and controlling and now has both the means and seemingly the nerve to threaten Japanese territorial integrity.  Japan has to do things differently than it has in the past to defend itself from China.  Aegis equipped destroyers cost twice as much as a land based Aegis ashore site.  To keep one destroyer on patrol at all times you need three such ships, one on patrol, one in the yards for maintenance after it's patrol and a third training up for deployment.  That makes sea based ballistic missile defense very expensive.  Land basing your BMD system makes more sense, but the worry about booster stages falling on people's homes and businesses is legitimate.  The complaint that having the sites nearby makes them targets is however laughable.  You are a target with or without defensive missile.  Does Japan want to be defenseless for the sake of moral purity?  Bambi meets Godzilla comes to mind.  China would prefer Japan was defenseless.  Where do you want to send your taxes to, Tokyo or Beijing?

I'm not sure why the cost for Aegis Ashore rose so high as the US has already built two such sites in Europe.  There shouldn't be any surprises cost wise   Japan got by during the Cold War with enough military strength to make invading Japan extremely costly in terms of Soviet lives and material along with the knowledge the US would beat the Soviets like a drum if they ever tried.  But the Soviets never possessed the kind of amphibious capability to take Japanese islands like China is developing rapidly and the Soviets never had more than one aircraft carrier.  Today with the current US leadership that ironclad promise to defend Japan doesn't look so reliable.  Japan now apparently needs to develop her own military further for the sake of her national survival.  The Japanese people will need to over come their fear of possessing military power and Japanese diplomats are going to need to cultivate allies in the region.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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