Slices of Japanese business, politics and life
North Korea’s test of wills
Japan, perhaps the most nervous neighbor of unpredictable North Korea, is also the least able to overtly make its fears felt, after this week’s nuclear test.
Analysts point out the combination of Tokyo’s history of antagonism with the North and the fact that Pyongyang boasts missiles that could hit almost anywhere in Japan pose particular risks for the world’s second largest economy.
Sanctions have already wiped out much of Tokyo’s bilateral trade with Pyongyang, leaving little space for further punitive economic measures.
Developing a pre-emptive strike capability to enable destruction of enemy missiles on the launch pad is an option that some ruling party lawmakers advocate. Prime ministers, including incumbent Taro Aso, have said a first strike would be in line with Japan’s pacifist constitution, if there were no other options.
But even that idea divides lawmakers in the conservative ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), with a party panel pushing for it to be included in a national defence plan, while Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada has expressed doubts and called for calm.
A general election many expect in August could see the main opposition Democratic Party take power, possibly in coalition with smaller parties opposed to any Japanese military action overseas, further reducing the chances of a drastic change in security policy.
Even if Japan were to decide it needed to acquire the ability to carry out an overseas strike, it would be a slow process full of risks, not least of which is that it might alienate neighbours South Korea and China, whose experience with Japan’s 20th Century colonial exploitation left a legacy of aversion to any hint of a return to Japanese militarism.
Photo credit: REUTERS/Issei Kato in Okinawa