Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Japan's Missile Capriccio
HANABUSA Masamichi / Former Japanese Ambassador to Italy

April 17, 2009
Japan overreacted to the latest move by North Korea, which launched a missile under the guise of sending a satellite into orbit. Information about North Korea is extremely limited, as the country remains shrouded in secrecy. As a result, attention given to what information that does trickle out is often blown out of all proportion. We depend solely on speculation when it comes to North Korean intentions. The country engages in diplomacy that is nothing but extortion by the weak; it seeks to take advantage of the other party’s psychological vulnerability. We should not forget that its diplomatic forte is psychological warfare that plays on the other party's threat awareness.

Unfortunately, seen from this viewpoint, excessive reaction on the part of Japan may have played right into North Korean hands. The Japanese government treated the missile launch as if it was a malicious attack by North Korea, and responded conspicuously by declaring its intentions of intercepting the missile if need be. In my view, this was not a wise decision. This set off too many alarms, when in fact the likelihood of a failed missile causing any material damage to Japanese life or property was practically zero and negligible, if not absolutely nil. Metaphorically speaking, it is dubious whether such a likelihood was greater than being struck by thunder.

TV broadcasts of the deployment of PAC-3s on Defense Ministry compounds at Ichigaya only exaggerated the possible danger of missile debris landing on Japanese soil. It was ridiculous to see the entire nation help publicize the North Korean missile launch to the world by making such a clamor about it. One TV program showed teachers desperately trying to safeguard the lives of children in a nursery school in Akita, where the missile was supposed to fly high overhead. While it may have been politically correct, I felt this was a storm in a teapot created by the Japanese government itself. Seeing the effect of the missile scare on Japanese citizens could have impressed upon the North Korean authorities that they could wreak havoc in Japan by simply giving notice of a potential attack.

While the strategic importance of the missile launch must not be overlooked, the Japanese government nevertheless should have downplayed the actual danger of such an isolated event. Instead of giving off the impression of an impulsive reaction, the government should have handled it more calmly, keeping in mind Japan's long-term strategic objectives. This is not a virtual episode in a computer game, but a sobering issue facing us in the very real world of international relations.

North Korea has been persistent in developing nuclear weapons and their means of delivery. Its progress, without doubt, is of vital significance to Japan's security. North Korean exports of weapons of mass destruction and their production technology to dangerous buyers would affect the whole world. The United States is presently giving higher priority to the ongoing economic crisis and problems in the Middle East. However, as an ally, Japan must remind the Americans that they should not judge lightly the dangers posed by North Korea.

From now on, the government should consider how best to use North Korea's recklessness to Japan's advantage on the international scene to achieve its national objective of preventing North Korea from developing nuclear weapons and their means of delivery. It should spare no effort in persuading the United States and China to seriously cooperate with Japan towards this goal. An effective message would be: in the event the international community fails to prevent North Korea's nuclear weapons program, sooner or later Japan will come to realize the need to develop its own deterrent capacity, albeit on a limited scale and initially non-nuclear, and will have to shed its presently self-imposed doctrine of "senshu-boei," or no-overseas-attack capacity. However, as it is unlikely that the United States or China will respond earnestly in the direction Japan desires, the Japanese must start a serious national debate on the future of our national defense. While the latest hurly-burly over the missile launch may have played into the maneuvering hands of North Korea, it may also have served to trigger an awakening of defense consciousness among the Japanese that was long-overdue. If so, Japan may have turned a misfortune into a blessing.

The writer is Emeritus Chairman of the English-Speaking Union of Japan.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

英 正道 / 元駐イタリア大使

2009年 4月 17日
北朝鮮が人工衛星打ち上げのためと称して行った今回のミサイル発射についての日本国内の反応は過大だったと感じる。秘密のヴェールに覆われている北朝鮮にまつわる情報は極めて限られていて、僅かな情報に誇大な関心が集まる。その結果北朝鮮の意図は推測に依存せざるを得ない。弱者の恐喝ともいえるその対外政策は、常に相手の心理状態を見抜 いて、その弱みを最大限に利用するやり方で進められる。交渉力を支える手段に乏しい北朝鮮が最も得意なものは、相手が有する脅威認識を逆手に取った心理・情報戦であることを忘れてはならない。





また日本政府は、今後北朝鮮の核兵器とその運搬能力開発阻止という国家目的を達成するために、この発射をいかに外交上日本に有利に利用するかを考えるべきである。日本はあらゆる努力を払って、中国と米国をこの目的に真剣に協力させなければならない。そのため日本が発し得る有効なメッセージは、若し国際社会が北朝鮮の核武装を阻止し得ない なら、日本人は早晩日本独自の限定的な抑止力ー当初段階では非核のーの必要性と、そのために「専守防衛」概念からの脱却の必要性があると考えるに至るであろうと言うことである。恐らく中国も米国も表向きの発言は別として、本気で行動はしないであろうから、日本人はそのことに備えて国防について国民的な議論を始めなければならない。その意味では今回のエピソードは北朝鮮の術中に嵌まったかも知れないが、日本人の中に健全な国防意識を生み出す切掛けになったならば災いを転じて福とし得たのであろう。

一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟