Night Watch

Japan: The Cabinet approved a change in the interpretation of the Constitution regarding Japan's right of self-defense. At an extraordinary meeting on Tuesday, the Cabinet approved the "Cabinet Decision on Development of Seamless Security Legislation to Ensure Japan's Survival and Protect its People."

The Cabinet said that until the reinterpretation, the government could only authorize the use of force in the event of an armed attack against Japan. Under the new interpretation, Japan has broadened its definition of self-defense to include the right to collective self-defense.

The Cabinet said the government has concluded that the Constitution should be interpreted to permit the use of only necessary force for self-defense under certain conditions. It said these include an armed attack on a foreign country that has close relations with Japan, which poses a clear threat to Japan's survival and which threatens a fundamental overturning of people's rights.

Comment: The decision represents a milestone in Japanese strategic thinking. The idea of collective self-defense is not new. It has been debated for many years. For at least 20 years the US has urged Japan to broaden its definition of self-defense as a means of shifting more of the burden of Alliance costs and responsibilities to Japan.

The milestone is Prime Minister Abe's political judgment that the public supports adoption of a more assertive defense policy. This means that one of the cornerstones of international relations in the Pacific region that the US laid after World War II has been overturned. Asians are taking more responsibility for Asian security.

North Korean missile launches and nuclear tests have been influential in reshaping Japanese official and public attitudes about defense. Now, if North Korea threatens South Korea and the US by threatening to shoot a missile at US bases in Japan, Japan can act in self-defense as an Alliance member without waiting to be damaged first.

This is a particularly bad day for North Korea because its strategists can no longer presume that Japan would wait to be attacked before engaging North Korea in combat.

South Korea-North Korea: The Republic of Korea issued a short, formal statement rejecting North Korea's special proposal as insincere. It said in part, "If North Korea truly wants peace on the Korean Peninsula, it should not only stop its slander and provocative threats, but also show sincerity on resolving the nuclear issue, which is a fundamental threat to peace on the Korean Peninsula."


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