North Korea: Japan mulls pre-emption

I pulled this out of the other North Korea post because it really does deserve a post of its own. It may be a turning point, for good or ill, in the fight to contain Kim Jong-Il.

Time magazine declares cowboy diplomacy dead, meaning the Bush doctrine of pre-emption is over. So says Time. Meanwhile, Japan is mulling a pre-emptive strike on North Korea:

Japan said Monday it was considering whether a pre-emptive strike on the North’s missile bases would violate its constitution, signaling a hardening stance ahead of a possible U.N. Security Council vote on Tokyo’s proposal for sanctions against the regime.

“If we accept that there is no other option to prevent an attack … there is the view that attacking the launch base of the guided missiles is within the constitutional right of self-defense. We need to deepen discussion,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe.

Abe is perhaps the most hawkish member of the Koizumi government, which is itself probably Japan’s most hawkish in decades. It’s also one of the few to last more than a couple of years. Most Japanese PMs lose the confidence of the Liberal Democratic Party (Japan’s GOP, basically) and are summarily replaced.

Japan’s thinking here reflects a deteriorating state of confidence, not in itself but in China and the US, and the UN. China, long seen as North Korea’s benefactor and to some extent master, publicly urged North Korea not to launch those missiles last week. We know how that turned out. The US is pre-occupied with the Middle East and the global war against jihad hirabah. The UN is hopelessly compromised by tyrants, corruption and the duplicity of Russia and China on the UNSC. In some ways, Japan’s push for a resolution with teeth may reflect its lack of patience with the UN, an organization that shuns Japanese influence though Japan owns the world’s second-largest economy and could become a superpower any time it decides to.

This also isn’t the first time Japan has pondered pre-emption. It actually set out on the path to accept pre-emption as a right of self-defense a couple of years ago, and at that time started down the road of equipping its Air Self-Defense Force pilots with the capability of aerial refueling–a capability they’ll only need if they’re sent on a mission outside Japanese territory to, say, knock down North Korean missiles on the pad.

Japan is also looking into developing an offensive missile capability, according to the “secret war” article linked in the other post. Japan does have a pretty successful space program and has launched several satellites, so developing offensive missiles is easily within Tokyo’s reach. A nuclear weapons capability is likewise within easy reach. All Tokyo has to do is make the decision. A re-armed Japan is something China should do nearly anything it can to avoid seeing. Modern Japan with offensive capabilities would be a true nightmare for Beijing, combining some of the world’s most advanced technology with an old warrior ethic and long-time contact with and training by the United States military, the best in world history. And unlike China, Japan is a free country with a massive industrial base that’s highly advanced, and it’s the lynchpin of US strategy in Asia.

More here, including this:

Japanese fighter jets and pilots are not capable of carrying out such an attack, a military analyst said.

“Japan’s air force is top class in defending the nation’s airspace, but attacking another country is almost impossible,” said analyst Kazuhisa Ogawa.

“Even if Japan’s planes made it to North Korea, they wouldn’t make it back … it would be an act of suicide,” he said. “Japan has no capacity to wage war.”

True, sort of. The US does have KC-135 refuelers based on Okinawa. Japan’s JASDF flies the F-15J, which doesn’t have aerial refueling capabilities…yet. But the US has plenty of strike fighters based in Japan that can be refueled by air, not to mention the aircraft carrier battle group based at Yokosuka. Striking North Korea is by no means impossible for Japan, provided the US supports the move.

More at OTB and Captain Ed.

More: All of this recent unpleasantness reminds me of some posts I wrote on the subject a while ago. Three years ago nearly to the day, Chris R. and I wrote about China’s relationship with North Korea. Specifically, I was advocating that China just move into North Korea militarily and take it over. The world would be swapping a horrible Communist regime for a slightly better one, and Kim would be gone (presumably to exile in some Chinese city) and with him, the threat to South Korea and Japan goes away. Well, other than the permanent threat from China, but it’s unlikely to attack either for any reason.

As if they were listening to me, China actually studied the idea and published its findings:

The People’s Liberation Army concluded in the study that while the Chinese-North Korean border was only lightly defended, the PLA did not have the logistics capability to race down across two rivers to the Demilitarised Zone bordering with South Korea – where the North’s Korean People’s Army has massed artillery and armour – in time to stop a southward attack.

A senior Western diplomat said: “That this kind of thing is being considered in China tells us about the gravity with which this is being regarded in Beijing.”

… Beijing is not as concerned as many Western reports maintain about a potential flood of North Korea refugees into its Manchurian regions should the North Korean regime collapse. Nor is it worried about US troops facing it across the Yalu River border: it is confident that Korean nationalism would see the Americans off should the peninsula be reunified under the Seoul Government.

… It is not yet clear whether the Bush Administration’s demand for Pyongyang to verifiably dismantle its nuclear program before any aid is discussed is a “softening up” tactic before some bargaining, or a deliberately impossible demand aimed at bringing down the regime.

A naval cordon of North Korea to prevent exports of mass destruction weapons would hit the regime’s vital interests if it includes ballistic missiles. The $US600 million ($A895 million) earned annually from missile sales is Pyongyang’s main source of hard currency.

Analysts in Beijing are taking seriously Pyongyang’s warnings that would it consider interceptions of its ships and aircraft an act of war.

Note the mention of a “naval cordon” around North Korea. That’s the Proliferation Security Initiative.

How serious was China’s study? Probably, not very. China simply doesn’t want to remove Kim Jong-Il. He’s too useful as a pit bull, and his government’s collapse would trigger a massive humanitarian crisis, and China would find itself having to deal with that.

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