Attack-response bills should cover realistic threats: Ishiba

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Proposed legislation to deal with foreign attacks on Japan should be reviewed to effectively cover nonmilitary threats such as terrorism and activities by spy ships, Shigeru Ishiba, the new Defense Agency director general, said Tuesday.

The 45-year-old House of Representatives member said he was instructed by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi upon his appointment Monday as the nation’s top defense official to put priority on passing the attack-response bills.

“I would like to have the bills passed in proper form as soon as possible,” he said in an interview. “But the bills should not be presented to the Diet in a half-baked or uncertain form.”

The bills were submitted during the last Diet session but were not voted on due to lack of time.

Ishiba had criticized the proposed legislation as a member of a Lower House special committee, arguing it lacked measures to cope with such situations as large-scale terrorist acts, guerrilla attacks and spy ships.

He said he would like to prompt the agency to review whether police and coast guard forces are capable of dealing with such scenarios.

“We have to appropriately review (measures against nonmilitary attacks) both in legislation and operation,” he said.

The fifth-term lawmaker who hails from Tottori Prefecture also heads a new Diet members’ league to deal with the issue of Japanese abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s. Set up in April, the group has demanded the government take a hardline approach on the issue.

“There won’t be any normalization (with North Korea) before solving the abduction problem,” he said, reiterating Koizumi’s stance on the issue.

Ishiba acknowledged, however, that it remains undiscussed at what point the issue will be considered settled.

He said the government should demand that Pyongyang divulge such details as who the North Korean government punished over the abductions and how they were punished. He also said Japan should seek compensation.

Revelations of the abductions were provided by Pyongyang on Sept. 17, when Koizumi held a historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

Keen on security matters to the point that he is sometimes jeered as a “military buff,” Ishiba has been regarded as a leading figure among junior Diet members who distance themselves from Liberal Democratic Party members, many of whom experienced the war and take a cautious stance in security affairs.

He has also maintained that the conventional government interpretation on the war-renouncing Constitution be changed to allow Japan to exercise its right to collective defense.

As a first-time Cabinet member, however, he was cautious on this topic.

“What I have said in the past, and abiding by the government’s interpretation (of the Constitution as a Cabinet member) are different matters,” he said.

Asked how Japan should react to a possible attack on Iraq by the United States, he only said he expects and hopes Iraq will unconditionally accept U.N. inspections on weapons of mass destruction.