Tuesday, October 19, 2004

East Asia region: how to deal with both Cold War-era threats?

Interview of US based former ambassador Shunji Yanai

(Profile: Shunji Yanai was born in Tokyo in 1937. After
graduating from the University of Tokyo's faculty of
law, he joined the Foreign Ministry and served as
director-general of the Treaties Bureau and the Foreign
Policy Bureau before assuming the post of administrative
vice minister in 1997. He served as ambassador to the
United States from September 1999 to October 2001. He is
currently a professor of law at Chuo University and was
a member of the Security and Defense Capabilities
Council, an advisory body to Prime Minister Junichiro

"...The East Asia region is unique in that it has to
deal with both Cold War-era threats, represented by the
division of the Korean Peninsula, and present-day
threats of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of
mass destruction. To deal with the situation, we have to
create a multifunctional and flexible defense structure
and a unified security policy. Since it is financially
impossible to create various defense structures to deal
with each threat, we need to give the defense structure
various functions and allow that structure to utilize
those functions flexibly.

Considering our relations with the United States, a
unified security policy is important, as it is
impossible for the SDF to take on Japan's security
alone. The pillars of this policy are 1) self-defense,
which includes diplomacy and use of official development
assistance for security, 2) the U.S.-Japan security
alliance, 3) international cooperation. While
international cooperation has tended to be seen as a
philanthropic activity, here it refers to engaging in
peacekeeping operations and humanitarian assistance with
an eye to creating security for Japan and the region.

Joint development had already started when I took
office, and the government had its eye on deployment for
some time. It didn't decide on the timing until December
last year (when Japan announced it would purchase
missile systems from the United States).

The delay of a decision to deploy MD was largely due to
technical difficulties. The fact that 200 Nodong
missiles are aimed at Japan and capable of reaching
targets within 10 minutes further complicated the
creation of an interceptor missile system.

Along with that, the cost of such a deployment and
constraints under the Constitution were also obstacles.
Many argued that to shoot down a Taepodong missile,
which could either be heading toward Japan or the United
States, could constitute the exercise of collective
self-defense. There is no time to debate such a matter
when the missile could strike in 10 minutes. What we
need to think about is how to protect ourselves. My
personal view is that if North Korea were to launch a
missile, it would definitely not aim it at the United
States. Pyongyang has neither the intention to do so,
nor the necessary technology at this point. If it were
to attack the United States, the retaliation would be
too great.

If North Korea's missiles are aimed at Japan, then this
is an issue of individual self-defense, and we should be
able to intercept them without hesitation.

While some may argue that attacking a missile base
preparing to launch would constitute a pre-emptive
attack, they are wrong. It is widely accepted that the
act of preparation is part of the launching process. If
there are other ways to stop a launch, then by all means
that would be preferable. But in the absence of such an
alternative, attacking at the point of preparation would
be considered individual self-defense.

The deployment of a missile system would definitely
increase U.S. faith in the U.S.-Japan alliance, as Japan
would be showing a more assertive involvement in
creating security in the East Asian region..."

(Click the tittle for full interview)

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