Japan: Dealing with North Korea’s Growing Missile Threat – The Diplomat

On June 15, then Defense Minister Kono Taro suddenly announced his decision to back away from building two sets of land-based ballistic missile defense/intercepting (BMD) sites that would cover virtually the entire territory of Japan. Many arguments about how to defend Japan from North Korea’s expanding missile threats have been made since then. One of the options put forward by certain members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is to give the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) strike capability to defeat/destroy ballistic missiles and other weapons in the territory of the aggressor nation.

Legal Aspects

There is indisputably a consensus in Japan that the JSDF is prohibited from conducting strategic strike operations on enemy soil under the current war-renouncing Constitution. In this context, it has been the exclusive role of U.S. forces under the Japan-U.S. alliance to act on behalf of the JSDF and conduct strategic strike operations against an enemy nation to weaken its attack capability. This strategic complementary mission-sharing posture has been widely referred to as a “Spear and Shield” relationship.

The Japanese government has acted in strict compliance with the national consensus. However, as a hypothetical argument in Japan, the government’s interpretation of the Constitution in the context of an attack on enemy soil in an extreme situation is not as simple as merely adhering to the common consensus. In one key remark, Prime Minister Hatoyama Ichiro’s administration stated to the Diet in 1956, seven years after the JSDF’s foundation:


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