Japan ‘helpless’ against missiles

Ishiba issues stark warning on North Korean threat

by Junko Takahashi

Japan has no effective means of protecting its citizens in the event of a ballistic missile attack by North Korea, Defense Agency chief Shigeru Ishiba said Monday.

“All we could do is minimize the damage if a missile is fired against Japan,” Ishiba told the House of Representatives Budget Committee when asked by an opposition lawmaker how Japan would respond to a ballistic missile attack.

If Pyongyang test-launches a ballistic missile over Japan, as it did in 1998 with the Taepodong launch, the government would immediately relay pertinent information about it to the public, Ishiba said.

Officials have said earlier that the government will publicize information when it confirms signs of North Korea preparing missile launches, such as fueling its missiles, and use diplomatic means to dissuade Pyongyang from firing them.

But once launched, a North Korean missile can reach Japanese territory in about 10 minutes, according to officials.

“We have to make a decision about what to do in an extremely limited time,” Ishiba said.

If a missile delivers a payload to Japan, all the government would be able to do is dispatch the Self-Defense Forces to rescue those who are injured, as in the case of sending SDF personnel for disaster relief, he said.

Ishiba said Japan would have to depend on its chief ally, the United States, for retaliatory attacks against a missile launch.

Japan has been studying a missile defense system jointly with the U.S. aimed at forming a shield against ballistic missile attacks.

Ishiba has repeatedly proposed that the system be moved to the development phase, stressing that Japan has no means of defending itself from such attacks.

Koizumi berates Kim Kyodo News Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Monday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has broken some of the promises of the Pyongyang Declaration that they signed last year to improve regional security.

“The Pyongyang Declaration has been breached in some parts,” Koizumi said during a session of the House of Representatives Budget Committee, referring to North Korea firing a missile into the Sea of Japan on Feb. 24 and reactivating a graphite-moderated nuclear reactor.

Pyongyang’s actions exemplify its brinkmanship, he said.

“We should deal with them in a coolheaded manner, without overreacting to provocations,” he said.

Reactivating the nuclear reactor violates a 1994 accord with the United States.

It is considered easier to produce nuclear arms from graphite-moderated reactors than other types.

According to the declaration, North Korea and Japan will “comply with all related international agreements” to reach an overall resolution of the nuclear issues on the Korean Peninsula.

Koizumi and Kim signed it after their summit in Pyongyang in September.

Koizumi has reiterated that the accord should be advanced.