Tokyo (AFP) June 29, 2007
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Friday Japan should find legal leeway to allow its armed forces to shoot down a ballistic missile fired at its key ally the United States. Abe made the remarks before a panel of advisers which he set up in April to lay the legal groundwork for Japan to fight for allies under attack without breaching its post-World War II pacifist constitution.
The constitution bans the use of force in settling international disputes, a constraint interpreted by successive governments to mean that Japan can resort to force for its own defence but not for "collective defence" of allies.
"If our ally, the United States, is seriously damaged by a ballistic missile, it will undoubtedly have a severe impact on our country's own defence," Abe told the advisers at the outset of a meeting.
"In this sense, this (missile defence) is an important issue from the viewpoint that the Japan-US alliance should function more effectively," he said.
Japan and the United States have been building an armed shield against missile attacks since North Korea lobbed a suspected long-range missile over Japan's main island and into the Pacific in 1998.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Abe called for a "severe" international response to North Korea's launch of several short-range missiles into the Sea of Japan (East Sea) a day earlier.
It was the third meeting of the 13-member panel of former officials and academics led by ex-ambassador to Washington Shunji Yanai.
The members are widely seen as close to Abe who has also been seeking to revise the constitution itself as part of his drive to build an assertive nation proud of its history despite its militarist past.
The panel was tasked to draw up a report to Abe before the end of the year.
"There was no objection to the idea that we should intercept (missiles)," Shinichi Kitaoka, a Tokyo University professor on the panel, told reporters after the meeting, according to Kyodo News.
Many panel members agreed that if Japan failed to intercept such missiles, despite having the capability to do so, it would undermine the foundation of the Japan-US security alliance, ex-ambassador Yanai said, according to Kyodo.
Some members said that missile interceptions over international waters did not constitute an exercise of force in foreign territory, Yanai said, adding that North Korea was one area discussed.
There were also suggestions that missiles targeted at Australia and other allies should also be intercepted, Yanai was quoted as saying.
earlier related report
The move supports Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's campaign for broader military cooperation with Washington, amid fears of a potential missile threat from North Korea, and his drive to change the country's pacifist constitution, drafted by U.S. occupational authorities in 1947.
The current constitution bans the use of military force as a means of resolving international disputes, and Abe's government aims to amend articles that prohibit Japan from having its own armed forces.
The conclusions of a special committee, led by former Japanese ambassador to the U.S. Shunji Yanai, will be used during future discussions on constitutional changes in Japan.
Earlier this year Shinzo Abe, who has been vying for stronger military ties with the Pentagon since his election as premier in September 2006, used his Liberal Democratic Party's parliamentary majority to push for a national referendum on the broader use of the Japanese military.
The pervading view in Japan's leadership is that the outdated legislation hampers its cooperation with its ally the United States on a joint ballistic missile defense program, because the country is limited to cooperating in the early detection of potential missile launches by 'rogue states' - in particular North Korea - but is unable to shoot down missiles.
North Korea became one of Tokyo's biggest security worries after it test-fired a long-range ballistic missile over Japan in 1998, prompting Tokyo to begin researching missile defense.
Japan's determination to boost its missile defenses was strengthened after Pyongyang conducted a series of ballistic missile tests in July 2006, and an underground nuclear test explosion three months later.
Under a December 2004 missile defense cooperation arrangement with the U.S., Japan deployed a high-resolution radar last year that can detect incoming missiles at an Air Self-Defense Force's Shariki base in Tsugaru, about 360 miles northeast of Tokyo.
By 2011, Japan plans to deploy a two-tier missile shield combining sea and land-based systems.
The U.S. SM-3 interceptor missiles, to be deployed on five Aegis-class destroyers in the Japanese Navy, are designed to intercept incoming missiles in mid-trajectory, while the U.S. Patriot PAC-3 systems, deployed at four ground-to-air missile units, are set to shoot down missiles before they hit the ground.
Source: Agence France-Presse
Source: RIA Novosti
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US Wants To Go It Alone On Missile Defense
Moscow (RIA Novosti) Jun 29, 2007
Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to join President George W. Bush at Walker's Point, the Bush family's seaside estate, in Kennebunkport, Maine, this weekend for a short summer retreat. Both leaders will focus on the deployment of elements of a U.S. missile defense system, namely 10 missile interceptors in Poland and an early-warning radar in the Czech Republic.
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