Senior government officials took pains Wednesday to keep the recent intrusion into Japanese territorial waters of suspected North Korean spy boats from becoming a catalyst for some legislators to galvanize the nation’s legal defense frameworks.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka expressed reluctance toward the government reviewing the operating laws of the Self-Defense Forces anytime soon, suppressing calls for greater authority for SDF patrol missions.

Speaking before a special Lower House committee on Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines, Nonaka said it is SDF tactics, not laws, that should be reviewed in the wake of the SDF’s failure to stop the two suspicious boats from fleeing into North Korea last week. “Our country’s basic legal framework is already in good order. We should make efforts to come up with measures to cope with similar contingencies (under the current laws) by examining this incident,” Nonaka said.

The top government spokesman’s comments came after Pyongyang snubbed Tokyo’s protest that the two vessels were North Korean spy ships intruding into Japanese waters. Japan has no diplomatic ties with North Korea.

The North Korean mission to the United Nations in New York reiterated a previous statement from Pyongyang that North Korea “had nothing to do with” the incident and rejected the protest filed Tuesday by Japan’s U.N. mission, a Foreign Ministry official said Wednesday.

Nonaka stressed that patrols of Japanese land and waters are missions assigned primarily to the nation’s police organizations, the National Police Agency and Maritime Safety Agency. “Only when their operations are proven impossible or strikingly difficult to carry out, should the SDF take on their role,” Nonaka said.

Some influential members of the Liberal Democratic Party defense committee insist the Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyers dispatched in the incident could have captured the boats in the Sea of Japan if they had been given authority equivalent to that of the MSA to conduct sea patrols, as well as permission to use weapons beyond the police principle of self-defense.

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