Editorial: Why Japan Doesn’t Shoot Down North Korea’s Missiles

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The anti-aircraft alarms on the Japanese island of Hokkaido were activated twice in just over 15 days.
They did not sound as part of a drill, but as a response to a real threat: the launch by North Korea of ​​two ballistic missiles that flew over the island before falling into the sea.

During the last test earlier this week, the Japanese received a government alert – via text message – at 07:00 in the morning advising them to seek shelter.

Between 07:04 am and 07:06 am the projectile flew over Hokkaido before falling to the sea shortly afterwards, which means that the citizens had about 4 minutes to get shelter.

All this caused many to wonder why the Japanese government did not choose to destroy the missile.
“We really have no practice in evacuating, we do not know what to do because Japan has not been at war for more than 70 years, ” Avelino Fujimoto, a medical student living in Maebashi, northwest of Tokyo, told the BBC.

“In general, Japan is a very safe place to live, but the simple fact that we do not know how powerful these missiles are or where they might fall is generating fear in many people,” he added.

Defense Minister Hisunori Onodera said authorities followed the missile from launch until its fall at sea and the government quickly assessed that the missile had no Japan to target.

In fact, it fell more than 1300 miles east of Hokkaido.

But if you have opted to take it down, what options does Japan really have?

Anti-missile defense

At present, the country has a missile defense system that operates in two stages.

On the one hand is the Aegis combat system, deployed in the zone in warships of Japan, the United States and South Korea.

It is designed to intercept missiles that have just been launched or in mid-flight.

In addition, Japan has deployed a series of short-range Patriot defense system batteries whose function is to shoot down the missiles as they begin to descend toward their target.

The combination is not bad, but it has its limitations.

For the Aegis system to work well, ships must be located at the right time and place for interception to be possible.

The Patriot system, for its part, works very well when it comes to protecting specific locations, but is less effective to defend very large areas.

Japan has other alternatives, but they are expensive and time-consuming.

It could set up an additional system such as the High Altitude Area Defense Terminal (Thaad) that was deployed on the island of Guam and offered by the United States to be deployed in South Korea.

“The sophisticated Thaad radar and its ability to destroy projectiles at a high altitude would reduce leakage from intercepted missiles, limiting the damage that their remains would cause in populated areas, an advantage that would be even more valuable in the event of a nuclear attack,” he said. wrote in March of this year J. Berkshire Miller in Foreign Affairs magazine.

But a deployment like this could cause tensions with China, as it did when this system was placed in South Korea.

The Japanese government, for its part, has already said it plans to equip more of its destroyers with the Aegis system.

In addition, the Defense Ministry said it wants to acquire a ground system, known as Aegis Ahore, which can intercept missiles above the atmosphere and above the Thhad range, according to The New York Times .
The problem is that none of these systems would give Japan a guaranteed protection.

That is why there has been a debate among defense officials about the acquisition of weapons that would allow the destruction of North Korean missiles even before its launch, perhaps jointly with the United States.

“Japan could buy Tomahawk missiles to the United States, or could use the F-35A, which has said it will buy in the years ahead, to attack North Korean targets”, explains Berkshire Miller, a member of the Study Center Council on Foreign Relations (Council of Foreign Affairs).

These pieces would be well adapted to the destroyers that the country has in the Sea of ​​Japan.

But it is not clear what options would be legal within the framework of the pacifist constitution of Japan that, established after World War II, greatly limits the possibilities of developing a conventional army and of performing actions that are not purely defensive.

The Japanese government established in 1956 that a preemptive strike is within its right to self – defense, but according to The New York Times legal experts believe the country would mean a break from the policy established after the S World War ECOND.

“Although the majority interpretation of the constitution places the sending of Japanese troops abroad for the use of force outside the limits of self-defense, it does not explicitly exclude hitting targets abroad with teams based in Japan. lawmakers and lawyers to justify the use of preventive forces, “says Berkshire Miller.

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