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Japanese editorial excerpts -2-.

TOKYO, July 28 Kyodo

Selected editorial excerpts from the Japanese press:

END RUN AROUND CIVILIAN CONTROL (The Japan Times, an English-language daily)

The Diet last week passed a revision of the Self-Defense Forces Law to identify actions Japan would take if faced with an imminent ballistic missile attack. This simplification of the command procedure for firing interceptor missiles, however, poses several questions, especially regarding the issue of civilian control. The introduction of missile defense itself also should be questioned.

Under existing law, in the event of a military attack from another country, the prime minister would order an SDF mobilization with approval from the Diet. In an emergency case, the prime minister could mobilize SDF units first, but would have to get ex post facto approval immediately from the Diet.

Under the revision, the SDF could fire interceptor missiles without the prime minister's mobilization order. If another country indicated that it intended to launch a ballistic missile attack on Japan -- such as by fueling a missile launcher -- the Defense Agency chief would seek permission from the prime minister in a Cabinet meeting to deploy the missile shield. If there were no clear signs of an imminent attack but another country behaved in a manner that led Japan to be on high alert -- for example, by preparing for an apparent missile test that could turn into a real attack launch -- the defense chief would get permission from the prime minister to implement an emergency procedures manual with an expiration date for deploying the missile shield.

In both cases, the defense chief, after getting approval from the prime minister, would give an advance order to commanders to launch interceptor missiles if necessary. In the second case, the commanders would decide at their own discretion whether to launch. In either case, a launch of interceptor missiles would have to be reported to the Diet.

The revision of the law is primarily designed to counter moves by North Korea. Since a ballistic missile launched from there would reach Japan in about 10 minutes, a simplified interceptor launch procedure is essential. Yet the Diet was not provided with the emergency procedures manual for when there is a possibility but no clear signs that another country plans a missile launch. Thus the Diet could not determine how strict or loose the steps are in the manual -- a big problem from the viewpoint of civilian control.

Another problem is that, if interceptor missiles are fired, the government does not have to get ex post facto approval from the Diet; it only has to report the fact to the Diet. It must never be forgotten that ex post facto approval by the Diet is the last resort for civilian control.

(July 28)
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Date:Aug 1, 2005
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