Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Japan: Switching from Defense to Offense

Japan: Switching from Defense to Offense?
December 06, 2004 1641 GMT


Japanese Defense Minister Yoshinori Ono has announced a draft of the country's defense plan for 2005 to 2009. The plan, which is expected to be approved by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's Cabinet on Dec. 7, includes provisions for the development of ballistic missiles with enough range to reach Japan's most remote islands. These missiles, if deployed, also will be capable of striking targets on the Asian mainland, such as North Korea, Shanghai and Beijing. The plan also identifies North Korea and China as potential enemies and stresses the need to project power regionally. Although this has been in the works for some years, this official change from Japan's previous pacifist defense policy will cause great concern in the region and escalate the missile race in Asia.


Japan's revision of its defense policy for 2005 to 2009 -- announced by Japanese Defense Minister Yoshinori Ono -- includes research on a ballistic missile intended to counter an invasion of its remote islands. Such a missile also would have the capability to hit targets on the Asian mainland, such as North Korea, Shanghai and Beijing, and would dramatically escalate the missile race in East Asia. The move toward a pre-emptive or offensive capability has been considered in earnest since the August 1998 launch of North Korea's Taepodong missiles, which flew over Japanese territory.

The significance of Japan's policy change is the pace with which new technologies and capabilities geared toward an offensive capability are being considered in defense planning. The Japanese Constitution prohibits Japan from using its armed forces for anything other than defense. Japanese intentions to develop ballistic missiles, along with other provisions in the National Defense Program Outline that would enable Japan to project power regionally, signal Japan's turning away from its defensive policy while holding on to the "Peace Constitution" as a cover.

Since the end of World War II, Japan's defense policy was based solely on a defensive posture, with no ability to attack or conduct pre-emptive strikes in the region. With memories of World War II-era Japanese brutality in mind, many countries in East Asia often have expressed concern over the prospect of Japan becoming more militarily active in the region.

The remote islands Ono said would be protected under the proposed defense plan are most likely the southern Ryukyu Islands, which have been the scene of recent Japanese military deployments and Chinese submarine incursions. In an internal meeting Nov. 7, the Japanese Defense Agency identified China as a potential enemy and established three scenarios of possible attacks against Japan by Chinese forces. The Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) also has been shifting its force concentration from northern Japan, where old Cold War doctrine was concerned with threats from the Soviet Union. Japanese forces have been realigning toward southern Japan, Okinawa and the Ryukyu Islands, closer to Japan: Switching from Defense to Offense? Posted by Hello