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Roundup of newspaper articles on capability to attack enemy bases

  • August 19, 2020
  • , Sankei , p. 6
  • JMH Translation

In response to the intensifying missile threats, the Japanese government is taking serious steps toward considering acquiring the capability to attack enemy bases. The Asahi Shimbun, the Mainichi Shimbun, and the Tokyo Shimbun voiced strong opposition to allowing a strike against the enemy’s missile sites, calling it violation of the principle of exclusive defense. The Sankei Shimbun viewed the capability as an effective means of defense and urged the government to swiftly make the decision to acquire such a capability.


In the beginning of August, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) made a proposal to the government on enhancing deterrence capability. In the proposal, the party effectively requested the government to acquire the capability to strike enemy bases, calling it an “ability to forestall an enemy’s ballistic missiles and other projectiles in places including inside an enemy’s territory.” The government will discuss the matter in the National Security Council (NSC), and the general direction will be determined by mid-September.


The Sankei Shimbun supported the LDP proposal as it “is the opinion of the largest ruling party reached after a careful and serious consideration of Japan’s capabilities to preserve the peace and protect its people.” (August 3). The Yomiuri Shimbun joined in the support of the attack capability, writing: “It is reasonable to have the option of attacking an enemy’s missile site if Japan is likely to suffer harm. The implementation of self-defense measures against a country that initiates an armed attack is internationally accepted” (August 10).


The Nikkei Shimbun didn’t advocate either argument, only writing: “As we face more difficulties countering new types of missiles developed by North Korea and Russia, it is advisable to discuss the matter in the broader context of enhancing overall deterrence capabilities” (August 1).


The Asahi Shimbun, meanwhile, was critical of the LDP proposal. “The capability to attack enemy bases presents practical problems beyond its constitutionality. A mistaken judgment could lead to an attack that amounts to a preemptive strike, which is a violation of international law. Determining the target is hard. An enemy counterattack would be inevitable. Furthermore, the number of missions assigned to the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) is already on the rise, straining their manpower and budget. Nor can the impact on Japan’s diplomacy with its neighbors be ignored. Did the LDP research and discuss all these potential ramifications sufficiently in depth?”


The Mainichi Shimbun wrote, “…there are deep reservations that if Japan were to have the ability to strike enemy bases, this would represent a deviation from its defense-only policy. There are also doubts about the viability and cost-effectiveness of such a move.” The paper continued: “It is true that successive administrations in Japan have interpreted strikes on the missile bases of opponents as lying within the scope of self-defense if there are no other ways to defend the country against an enemy attack. But though legally logical, this is unreasonable in practical terms” (August 10). Tokyo Shimbun pointed out that “according to a survey the Japan Association for Public Opinion Research conducted by mail, 76% of respondents said they want the SDF to engage exclusively in defense. The government must not ignore the Japanese people’s will.”


Meanwhile, Sankei Shimbun stated, “The arguments against acquiring the capability cite unconstitutionality and the violation of the principle of exclusive defense. They are wrong.” The paper argued that past Japanese administrations have taken the stance that using the capability to attack enemy bases is within the scope of exclusive defense as it falls under the legal category of defense.” The paper declared that “China and North Korea protest against Japan’s acquiring the capability as they hope to keep Japan in a strategically inferior position. The domestic argument against acquiring the capability is totally misguided as it prioritizes attackers’ security over the security of the Japanese people.”


During a press conference on the issue, a Tokyo Shimbun reporter asked Defense Minister Taro Kono his opinion on the expected difficulty in securing  neighboring countries’ understanding. The defense minister quipped, “Why do we need China’s understanding when it is deploying more and more missiles?” The fact that some in Japan feel it has to gain the understanding of its neighbors in deciding its own defense policy is cause for serious concern.


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