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Abe Visits Disputed Islands, Threatens Preemptive Strikes

Prime Minister Abe Attends Naval Fleet Review

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited several disputed islands a few hours after his government announced a new defense strategy that included the right to preemptively attack aggressive foreign forces and organize a new coast guard unit to protect Japan’s coastlines and islands.

Abe spoke to coast guard officers on Ishigaki Island, which is part of Okinawa Prefecture but is much closer to Taiwan than Tokyo (see map). He praised the officers’ courage in the face of increased Chinese aggression in the area, according to the Associated Press. In a related story, Tokyo is reportedly considering nationalizing some 400 remote islands scattered around the Japanese archipelago to further strengthen its territorial integrity.

Meanwhile, back in Tokyo, Abe’s Defense Minister spoke of Japan’s new defense strategy:

One of the most controversial new policies under discussion—one usually raised within the context of North Korean missile threats—is giving the Tokyo’s Self Defense Forces the ability to strike pre-emptively at an enemy’s strategic bases….

Such a notion was considered common sense in the international community, he said. “Until now, we’ve asked our allies, particularly the U.S., to play such a role to protect Japan,” the 53-year-old ruling-party lawmaker said. “But as we review the division of work between Japan and the U.S., we should consider developing a limited ability to strike at enemies’ strategic bases when clear intent exists to attack us. It is our understanding that Japan’s constitution allows this.”

China will certainly not be pleased with this continuing push toward Japanese rearmament. In an age of technological warfare, Japaese military capabilities could become very powerful very quickly. The global chattering class badly underestimates Japanese potential, and in recent years it has gotten into the habit of overestimating China’s power to shape events—witness the coverage of China’s much-hyped “new” aircraft carrier. Away from the spotlight, Japan’s nationalist government is increasing the country’s military budget for the first time in a decade and adapting its navy to counter and even attack foreign forces.

[Japanese warships photo courtesy of Getty Images]

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  • Jim__L

    Um. Is Japan’s WWII battle-flag photoshopped in there, or was the picture taken from a Japanese ship flying that flag?

    If I recall correctly, they were banned from using that flag at the end of the war.

    • foobarista

      Japan’s naval ensign does look like this. It was re-established as Japan’s naval ensign in 1954. Note that the “Rising Sun” flag is slightly different: the naval ensign has the “sun” slightly offset from the center on the pole-side of the flag, while the “Rising Sun” WWII army flag has the “sun” in the exact middle.

      (Oops – noticed that Tim Godfrey answered the question above – sorry for redundancy.)

  • Pete

    Somebody ring up the Vatican to get Pope Francis’ take on any possible preemptive attack.

  • Tim Godfrey

    The Japanese Naval Ensign is similar but not identical (see wikipedia Japan Flag). The WW2 flag is also not banned but it is not used by government agencies.

  • Waterman199364

    Modern Japanese history involves three wars started with preemptive strikes.
    In 1895 with China, 1904 (05?) with Russia, and 1941 with the west. (Pearl Harbor).
    Currently I see no war near but I would treat all statements of preemptive strikes by the Japanese seriously.

  • Tim Godfrey

    Seems to me that every war that was ever started was started with a ‘preemptive strike’ as its justification (wasn’t the Iraq War a ‘preemptive strike’?).

    The real question is whether Japan has any desire for territorial expansion like it did in the past. I would say that there is absolutely no desire for that even among the most extreme of Japan’s right wing. A similar statement cannot be said of China which has clearly indicated its desire to annex the territory of its neighbors. Japan’s response is a reaction to that.

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