Viewing cable 06TOKYO3890
Title: MILITARY PREEMPTION DEBATE RESURFACES IN JAPAN

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
06TOKYO38902006-07-12 10:12:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tokyo
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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4246
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RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW PRIORITY 1135
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL PRIORITY 9395
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
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C O N F I D E N T I A L TOKYO 003890 
 
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E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/11/2016 
TAGS: MARR PARM PREL KS KN JA
SUBJECT: MILITARY PREEMPTION DEBATE RESURFACES IN JAPAN 
 
Classified By: Ambassador J. Thomas Schieffer. Reason: 1.4(B)(D) 
 
¶1.  (C)  Summary:  North Korea's missile launches have 
rekindled debate over whether Japan should be able to preempt 
an imminent attack by acquiring capabilities to strike 
abroad.  Japan Defense Agency (JDA) Director General Nukaga, 
Foreign Minister Aso and Chief Cabinet Secretary Abe recently 
said such action would be both constitutional and within 
international norms.  Their comments notwithstanding, Prime 
Minister Koizumi, other politicians and most of the media 
have subsequently taken a more cautious approach.  In 
addition, senior MOFA officials, pointing to similar comments 
dating back to 1956, have pointed out that Japan lacks the 
capability to take any preemptive action.  End summary. 
 
¶2.  (U)  On July 9, JDA Director General Fukushiro Nukaga 
told reporters that "as a sovereign nation, it is natural to 
have an idea to possess minimally essential capability" to 
attack foreign bases when under imminent threat of attack. 
Clearly referring to the recent DPRK missile launches, he 
later told a TV audience that the government "can decide on 
attacking an enemy to defend Japan when the enemy, which is 
targeting Japan puts a finger on the trigger of a gun." 
Separately, Foreign Minister Aso asserted the right of 
preemptive self-defense saying on NHK TV that "if a missile 
(with a nuclear warhead) is targeted at Japan, we do not have 
an option of doing nothing until we suffer damage."  These 
comments were echoed by Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe 
who told the press on July 10 that overseas strikes would be 
considered self-defense "if there were no other way to 
prevent a missile attack on Japan." 
 
¶3.  (U)  Later in the day, Prime Minister Koizumi took a more 
carefully modulated line, saying that while it would be all 
right to study whether Japan should acquire capabilities to 
meet certain theoretical threats, it would be hard to judge 
whether a specific country intended to attack Japan, and it 
would also raise constitutional questions about the use of 
armed force.  "We will have to think about this matter in a 
cautious manner," Koizumi concluded.  Koizumi's coalition 
party, Komeito President Takenori Kanzaki, took a similar 
line, urging extreme caution in discussing the issue. 
Subsequent editorial commentary among the major Japanese 
dailies was generally negative, with Mainichi, Asahi and 
Tokyo Shimbun all coming out against the idea.  Tokyo Shimbun 
worried that a preemptive capability would change Japan's 
basic policy of "defense-only" defense, and Mainichi argued 
that, by Japan going it alone, it would harm the US-Japan 
alliance. 
 
¶4.  (C)  Meeting with Deputy Under Secretary of Defense 
Lawless on July 11, Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) faction 
leader and former JDA Director General Taku Yamasaki noted 
that in the US-Japan alliance, Japan had always served as the 
"shield" and the US as the "spear."  There was no reason to 
change this, he asserted, and discussions on a Japanese 
offensive military capability were a waste of time.  Yamasaki 
added that the debate needed to be shifted back to how Japan 
can better strengthen the shield.  Turning to the ROK, he 
observed that "on a certain level they may be correct about 
an overreaction (to the missile launches) in Japan, but their 
recent statements will only fuel public resentment against 
Korea."  In a separate meeting the same day, JDA Defense 
Policy Division Director 
Ro Manabe told political officer that as long as Komeito was 
in the ruling coalition, there would be no serious 
discussions on pre-emptive strikes.  "No one in Japan doubts 
the US willingness to carry out pre-emptive strikes when and 
if needed," Manabe said, "so we see no need to develop this 
capability ourselves." 
 
¶5.  (C)  During dinner hosted by MOFA Director General for 
Asian Affairs Kenichiro Sasae for Assistant Secretary Hill on 
July 10, MOFA Foreign Policy Bureau Deputy Director General 
Koji Tsuruoka noted that the Korean media had latched on to 
the statements about a possible preemptive military 
capability and were certain to spin them in a negative way. 
Tsuruoka pointed out that the views expressed were not new; 
 
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indeed, there was track record of statements in the Diet by 
senior Japanese politicians dating back to 1956 (during the 
cabinet of Prime Minister Ichiro Hatoyama), asserting the 
constitutionality of preempting an imminent attack.  That 
said, the Japanese Government, as a matter of policy, had 
eschewed acquiring power projection capability.  The result, 
Tsuruoka observed, was that Japan remained completely 
 
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incapable of taking such preemptive action.  DG Sasae chimed 
in that talk about "all options" in the context of the DPRK 
missile launches was a good thing; it would encourage China 
to work harder on the North Koreans. 
 
¶6. (C)  Comment:  Japanese politicians, academics and the 
media are much more willing than even five years ago to 
debate sensitive issues, such as revising the constitution 
or, in this case, possible acquisition of offensive military 
capability.  This represents a growing nationalism and a 
vaguely defined notion that it is time for Japan to act as a 
"normal country."  That said, a strong pacifist strain 
persists in Japan, and many Japanese approach even discussing 
the subject of a military strike capability with decidedly 
mixed feelings.  Reflecting this hesitancy, Takushoku 
University professor of international relations Takashi 
Kawakami related to us that he still feels uncomfortable 
discussing the merits of Japan acquiring a theoretical 
military capability to attack a theoretical foe in a 
theoretical dire scenario, knowing that such debate will 
inevitably invite criticism from Japan's neighbors. 
SCHIEFFER