Japan Considring Preemptive Strike on North Korea

Japan said Monday it was considering whether a pre-emptive strike on the North’s missile bases would violate its constitution, signaling a hardening stance ahead of a possible U.N. Security Council vote on Tokyo’s proposal for sanctions against the regime. The vote itself could be delayed for several days, a news agency reported.

China asked Japan to postpone the vote until later this week and Japan is prepared to accept, Kyodo News agency said.

Japanese officials had earlier vowed to push ahead with a resolution that would impose sanctions on North Korea for its missile tests last week, but said Tokyo would not insist on a Monday vote.

Japan was badly rattled by North Korea’s missile tests last week and several government officials openly discussed whether the country ought to take steps to better defend itself, including setting up the legal framework to allow Tokyo to launch a pre-emptive strike against Northern missile sites. “If we accept that there is no other option to prevent an attack … there is the view that attacking the launch base of the guided missiles is within the constitutional right of self-defense. We need to deepen discussion,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said.

Time The End of Cowboy Diplomacy Cover Photo Considering how absolutely meaningless a U.N. resolution is, force seems the preferable of those two options. Still, as I’ve written numerous times before on this subject, it’s not entirely clear there are any good military options, either.

This story is particularly amusing, however, given its coincidence with TIME’s cover story on “The End of Cowboy Diplomacy” and approving CNN summary of the same name. I wouldn’t start playing “Happy Trails” just yet.

FILED UNDER: Asia, United Nations, US Constitution, , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. So 65 years ago Tokyo launched a pre-emptive strike at the US whom they felt threatened their regime. We beat the snot out of them, literally nuking them, to the point that they constitutionally can not make aggressive war. Now they are re-opening Pandora’s box.

    And I suspect that the government most getting the message is not NK, but China.

  2. Matt says:

    Elvis McSushiKoizumiHitler!!!

  3. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    So Matt, what would you suggest? That they lay dormant and let a madman continue until he sucessfully is able to launch a nuclear strike against Japan? Just how stupid are you people?

  4. Matt says:

    Ummm…..It was a joke. A preemptive attack on the Nutroots.

  5. cirby says:

    Samurai Diplomacy.

  6. Geoz says:

    Did Japan request notification of launches in North Korea?

    They should make this request first.

  7. Anderson says:

    So 65 years ago Tokyo launched a pre-emptive strike at the US whom they felt threatened their regime.

    Apparently they should just call it a *preventive* war, and then they’re on the side of the angels. You know, like we are in Iraq.

    What puzzles me is why we’d expect the Japanese to be the water-carriers here. If NK is to be hit, we may as well do it rather than the Japanese.

  8. Cernig says:

    Let’s not pretend that the Japanese are contemplating this simply because of the NK launches – details of which are still unclear at best. They are simply the latest, most convenient, excuse for the Militant Right (both in Japan and in the US).

    Koizumi has long said he wishes to repeal Article 9 and his heir apparent says the same thing. Other politicians on the Militant Right have, for the last two decades, slowly been making the idea of a resurgent Japan acceptable to the public.

    Once politically unacceptable ideas — including calls to resurrect the political powers of the emperor and subdue neighboring countries such as China — have now become part of the mainstream national conversation.

    Previous excuses for the move have included the current India-Pakistan arms race and Chinese objections to Japanese school textbooks that minimized atrocities carried out on the mainland from 1910 to 1945.

    Let’s have a discussion by all means, but lets begin with a clear appreciation that talk of Japanese pre-emption did not begin on the 4th of July 2006 and that the facts of the NK launches are being spun by those with a militaristic agenda.

    Regards, Cernig