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Japan Has Right To Protect Itself Says Foreign Minister

The Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso. photo courtesy AFP
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Jul 10, 2006
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso Sunday suggested that Japan would have the right to attack North Korea to protect its citizens from a nuclear missile launch by the isolated Stalinist country.

Following the testfiring last week by Pyongyang of seven ballistic missiles, Aso told NHK public television: "It is impossible for us to do nothing until we are attacked by a country which says it has nuclear weapons and could fire missiles against Japan."

Japan has a pacifist constitution banning it from using or threatening to use force.

Aso said the right to attack before being attacked was within the scope of the constitution "at least under the current situation to guarantee Japanese citizens' security".

Aso's comment were echoed by Fukushiro Nukaga, director general of the Defense Agency, who was quoted as saying: "It is natural that a sovereign nation have a limited assault capability against enemy territory so as to protect its own citizens."

"The latest problem of North Korea's missile launches will probably be a trigger for residents in Japan to ponder the issue. We need to discuss having offensive capability for the purpose of self-defense," Nukaga said, according to Jiji Press and NHK television.

Of the seven missiles launched Wednesday by North Korea, six are thought to have been short-range Scuds or middle-range Rodongs, the latter capable of hitting the Japanese archipelago.

"Rodong missiles have been regarded as a direct threat to Japan since they were testfired in 1993," said Aso. "We are rushing to put an anti-ballistic missile system in place ahead of schedule."

Following last week's North Korean tests, Nukaga said Japan wanted to develop a joint missile defense system with the US as soon as possible.

Japan has dodged the constitutional issue by calling its military self-defense forces and limiting its function to defensive purposes.

US Downplays Japan Comments On North Korea

The United States on Monday downplayed comments from senior Japanese officials who have warned that Tokyo has the right to make a preemptive strike on North Korea under some circumstances. "I did not read this as a declaration of war," White House spokesman Tony Snow told reporters, adding that the warning had come with "a whole series of qualifiers."

But Snow said that Japan "has clearly not ruled out any options" in dealing with the potential missile threat from North Korea -- diplomatic language often attached to the principle that officials want to keep all options open.

His comments came after Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso Sunday suggested that Japan would have the right to attack North Korea to protect its citizens from a nuclear missile launch by the isolated Stalinist country.

Following the test firing last week by Pyongyang of seven ballistic missiles, Aso told NHK public television: "It is impossible for us to do nothing until we are attacked by a country which says it has nuclear weapons and could fire missiles against Japan."

Japan has a pacifist constitution banning it from using or threatening to use force.

Aso said the right to attack before being attacked was within the scope of the constitution "at least under the current situation to guarantee Japanese citizens' security".

Of the seven missiles launched Wednesday by North Korea, six are thought to have been short-range Scuds or middle-range Rodongs, the latter capable of hitting the Japanese archipelago.

US Downplays Divisions Over North Korea

The White House on Monday downplayed the possibility that permanent UN Security Council members Russia and China could abstain from voting on a UN resolution calling for sanctions on North Korea.

Asked how their possible abstention would affect the resolution if the measure otherwise has enough support to pass, spokesman Tony Snow replied: "Then it passes."

"I mean, that's the way it works. If you have a Security Council resolution that is passed with abstentions, it passes," he said, declining to say what impact if any their non-voting would have on the measure's effectiveness.

Asked about a possible delay in voting on such a resolution, Snow noted that a high-level Chinese delegation was expected in Pyongyang and downplayed divisions in how to deal with the Stalinist regime.

"I think the most important thing to note is that everybody really is united on the key goal," getting North Korea back to the six-country talks on its nuclear programs, he said.

The UN Security Council is to hold formal consultations later Monday on when to vote on a Japanese draft resolution that would censure North Korea for its missile tests, amid a flurry of diplomacy to settle the crisis.

The Japanese draft would block the transfer of items to North Korea that could be used in missile and weapons of mass destruction programs.

It condemns North Korea's testing of seven missiles last week, including a new long-range Taepodong-2 which could theoretically reach US soil, and invokes Chapter Seven of the UN charter, which authorizes sanctions or even military action.

China and Russia oppose the Japanese draft -- which is co-sponsored by the United States and all Western members of the council -- because it includes sanctions and a reference to Chapter Seven.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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