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Why doesn’t Japan release the estimate of damage from a contingency on the Korean Peninsula?

  • December 5, 2017
  • , Tokyo Shimbun , p. 26
  • JMH Translation

The U.S. military and the South Korean military conducted the largest-ever joint air force exercise on Dec. 4, heightening the tension on the Korean Peninsula. On Dec. 1, an evacuation drill was conducted in Fukuoka City in response to a scenario in which North Korea fired a missile. It was the first such drill conducted in a large city. Strangely, the Japanese government has not released its damage estimate in the event of a contingency on the Korean Peninsula. The U.S. Congress has already released a damage estimate. The Japanese people are ignorant of the possible scale of damage, which intensifies their anxiety.


During the drill conducted in Fukuoka City on Dec. 1 with a scenario that a North Korean ballistic missile will fly over the city, emergency early-warning messages were sent to cellular phones throughout the city, evacuation drills were conducted in parks and elementary schools, and subway service was suspended.


This was the 24th joint drill conducted by the national government or a local municipality, but strangely enough, the government never released its damage estimate, although foreign countries have already released theirs.


In late October, the Congressional Research Service in the U.S. released a report, saying, “In the event of war breaking out on the Korean Peninsula, there would be as many as 300,000 casualties in the first few days without the use of nuclear weapons.”


The report specifically referred to North Korea’s capability of firing 10,000 shells per minute, saying, “Nearly 25 million people, including 100,000 Americans in South Korea, would be affected both in the ROK and North Korea.” If nuclear weapons are used, the report continues, South Korea would sustain devastating damage with the death toll in the tens of millions and Japan would come under attack by ballistic missiles.


On Nov. 22, the London-headquartered European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) released North Korea’s “list of targets to attack with nuclear weapons.” The ECFR, citing information from North Korea, pointed out that the DPRK is prepared to launch nuclear attacks against U.S. military bases in the Asia-Pacific region and cities on the U.S. mainland. The ECFR reported that along with Seoul and other major cities in South Korea, Tokyo, Osaka, Yokohama, Nagoya and Kyoto are potential targets.


In response to North Korea’s recent launch of a new intercontinental ballistic missile, U.S. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said on a TV program on Dec. 3, “It’s time to start moving the families of American military personnel out of South Korea as North Korea pushes the U.S. closer to a military conflict.”


President Donald Trump has hinted at military action by saying, “All options are on the table” and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has consistently expressed a stance of supporting the president. Has the Japanese government estimated the damage of a possible military contingency on the Korean Peninsula?


In response to an inquiry, an official of the Defense Ministry’s Public Affairs Division said, “We continue to conduct simulations to estimate North Korea’s military capability and its intentions, including a damage estimate in the event North Korea attacks Japan,” thus admitting the government has estimated the damage.


However, the government has no intention to release the estimate, saying, “Releasing the estimate would significantly impact the public and would also lead to our revealing our cards.” The government apparently fears that the people would panic. However, repeated evacuation drills are intensifying their anxiety.


“As Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called the current situation a ‘national crisis’ and there is the possibility of a nuclear attack, the government is not fulfilling its accountability by not informing the people of the associated risks,” criticized journalist Yujin Fuse.


Mikio Haruna, a commentator on international affairs, said: “Both the government and the media have kept silent about the damage estimate, which reminds me of the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. I appreciate the need for confidentiality in defense matters, but the government should release as much information as possible.”


“In actuality, a ballistic missile will only pass through outer space. Repeating drills untethered to reality without providing the damage estimate only intensifies the people’s fear,” said Fuse. He continued: “If a nuclear-tipped medium- to long-range missile strikes a city, there is no chance of surviving even if people cover their heads and crouch. In the end, all we can do is to seek a path to dialogue with North Korea. Probably, the government does not release the damage estimate out of concern that public opinion will turn against the administration as it focuses only on increasing pressure on North Korea. So there is no way Japan can be called a democratic country.”



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