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[Op-ed] N. Korea Helping Japan Grow Militarily

Posted April. 08, 2009 06:24,   


Japan’s Self-Defense Force in March 1999 fired their guns for real for the first time in 45 years since its creation. The Maritime Defense Force chased two suspected North Korean spy vessels for 20 hours that entered Japanese waters and fired 1,300 shots with machine guns. This was called the opening of Pandora’s box, or when the taboo firing by Japanese forces. Gen Nakatani, Japanese lawmaker and former high-ranking military officer, said, “This is a good opportunity that comes once in 50 years.”

Since Japan`s defeat in the Second World War, the argument for rearmament in Japan has been something for ultranationalists. North Korea has turned this around, however, and led the way for Japan to reemerge as a military power. When the North launched its Taepodong-1 missile in 1998, Japan set up plans to launch an intelligence satellite and research and develop the Theater Missile Defense. In response to Pyongyang`s invasion of its waters, Tokyo expanded its use of weapons for the Self-Defense Force and passed laws on new U.S-Japan defense cooperation guidelines. When the North launched its Taepodong-2 missile and went ahead with a nuclear test in 2006, Japan upgraded the status of the Defense Agency to the Defense Ministry.

North Korea’s rocket launch on Sunday crossed over Japan and enraged the Japanese again. Voices in Japan are growing to reinforce its military power and revising its “peace constitution” to change from the Self-Defense Force to the Self-Defense Military. Moderates and leftists who had been sympathetic to North Korea before South Korea was democratized as well as emboldened hawks are criticizing the North. The leading Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun, which has long watched for Japan’s restoration as a military power, critically covered North Korea’s missile launch over seven pages Monday. The newspaper carried the headline “North Korea Launches a Missile” on the front page, the editorial titled “North Korean Missile, Let’s Curb the Threat With International Cooperation.”

Pyongyang often uses the term “one people” as an excuse. A series of military provocations by the North not only pose a direct threat to the South but also encourage Japan, a country which harmed Koreans as a colonial ruler, to grow more nationalistic and warlike. In South Korea, those who worked under left-leaning administrations over the past decade offered a huge sum of money to North Korea, resulting in the de facto sponsorship of the North`s nuclear and missile development. They and other hypocrites who praise the North must ask whom the rocket launch is good for.

Editorial Writer Kwon Soon-hwal (shkwon@donga.com)