With the growing threat to the Japanese homeland represented by northern Korea’s nuclear weapons development, Japan is considering another major change to its defense posture: acquisition of a “counter-attack” capability to allow Japan to more actively respond to an attack by northern Korea.
There are a couple of misconceptions, though, in the government’s considerations or in The Diplomat‘s presentation of those considerations.
As long as Japan acquires the capabilities recommended by the study group with close consultation with the United States, so that whatever the new capability Japan acquires will benefit overall deterrence of the US-Japan alliance, it will ultimately work to counter urgent security challenges presented by North Korea.
Japan’s acquisition of counter-attack capabilities may well benefit from consultation with us. However, Japan’s acquisition need not be limited by, or to, such consultations; Japanese acquisitions done on their own recognizance also will work to counter urgent security challenges presented by northern Korea.
The larger misconceptions, though, are these:
On the one hand, Japan has to accelerate its investment in the capabilities to counter the North Korean threat, which is a conventional military threat. On the other hand, Japan will also have to continue the investment it began to develop capabilities to counter China’s assertive actions in the East China Sea.
The northern Korean threat is only minimally a conventional one. While northern Korea can lob a number of conventionally armed ballistic missiles at Japan, the serious threat, the one that can severely damage the Japanese homeland and butcher millions of Japanese, the serious threat posed by northern Korea is its growing nuclear weapons capability, especially coupled with Baby Kim’s constant threats to use those weapons when he’s achieved the ability to lob them at anyone.
Furthermore, I’m not convinced the two problems presented by northern Korea and the People’s Republic of China’s aggressions in the East China Sea are unrelated. Nor am I convinced the two problems’ causes are unrelated.
Japan would do well to acquire an active defense capability, one capable of responding more completely than merely parrying an attack (which parrying can only be imperfect, and with nuclear weapons any leakage can have devastating consequences), but in addition to the parry being capable of serious counterstrokes. Especially since such capabilities would do well against both problems.