JAPAN CONSIDERS PRE-EMPTIVE
STRIKE AGAINST NORTH KOREA
Mari Yamaguchi, Canadian
TOKYO -- 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 UN Security Council vote on sanctions against the North.
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 North Korea's 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,"
Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said.
Japan's constitution currently bars the use of military force in settling international
disputes and prohibits Japan from maintaining
a military for warfare. Tokyo has interpreted that to mean
it can have armed troops to protect itself, allowing the existence of its 240,000-member Self-Defense Forces.
A Defense Agency spokeswoman, however, said Japan
has no attacking weapons such as ballistic missiles that could reach North
Korea. Its forces only have ground-to-air missiles and ground-to-vessel missiles, she said
on condition of anonymity due to official policy.
Despite resistance from China
and Russia, Japan has
pushed for a UN Security Council resolution that would prohibit countries from transferring missile-related items, materials
and technology to North Korea. A vote
was possible later Monday, but Japan said
it would not insist on one.
"It's important for the international community to express a strong will
in response to the North Korean missile launches," Abe said. "This resolution is an effective way of expressing that."
China and Russia,
both of which have veto power on the council, have voiced opposition to the measure.
Citing unnamed Chinese diplomatic sources, Japan's
Kyodo news agency reported Monday that China
may use its veto on the Security Council to block the resolution.
The United States,
Britain and France have
expressed support for the proposal, while Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso has said there is a possibility that Russia will abstain.
South Korea, not a council member, has not publicly taken a position on the resolution, but
on Sunday the government in Seoul rebuked Japan
for its outspoken criticism of the tests.
"There is no reason to fuss over this from the break of dawn like Japan,
but every reason to do the opposite," a statement from President Roh Moo-hyun's office said, suggesting that Tokyo was contributing
to tensions on the Korean peninsula.
Abe said Monday it was "regrettable" that South
Korea had accused Japan
"There is no mistake that the missile launch ... is a threat to Japan and the region. It is only natural for Japan to take measures of risk management against such a threat,"
Meanwhile, a Chinese delegation including the country's top nuclear envoy,
Vice-Foreign Minister Wu Dawei, arrived in North Korea on Monday, officially
to attend celebrations marking the 45th anniversary of a friendship treaty between the North and China.
The U.S. is urging
Beijing to push its communist ally back into six-party nuclear
disarmament talks, but the Chinese government has not said whether Wu would bring up the negotiations. A ministry spokeswoman
said last week that China was "making
assiduous efforts" in pushing for the talks to resume.
Talks have been deadlocked since November because of a boycott by Pyongyang in protest of a crackdown by Washington
on the regime's alleged money-laundering and other financial crimes.
Beijing has suggested an informal gathering of the six nations, which
could allow the North to technically stand by its boycott, but at the same time meet with the other five parties _ South Korea,
China, the U.S., Japan and Russia. The U.S. has backed the idea and said
Washington could meet with the North on the sidelines of
such a meeting.