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Japan on highest alert amid escalating inter-Korean tension

Japan on highest alert amid escalating inter-Korean tension

Posted November. 29, 2010 11:21,   


As South Korea and the U.S. began a joint naval drill in the Yellow Sea Sunday, Japan is on its highest state of alert.

Japanese media reported Sunday that Japan’s ground, air and naval forces started gathering and analyzing intelligence around the clock by increasing the number of staff on duty at their command.

PC3 patrol planes and EP3 electronic intelligence reconnaissance planes have also stepped up surveillance, while airborne warning and control system planes and Aegis destroyers have entered emergency standby mode.

Collaborating and exchanging intelligence with Washington, Tokyo is fully prepared to take immediate action if signs of abnormality on Pyongyang’s side are discovered. Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa said, “We have increased intelligence staff and are responding to situations around the clock.”

Prime Minister Naoto Kan went to his office Sunday and was briefed by Kitazawa on the South Korea-U.S. joint drill, North Korea’s moves, and China’s response. Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku discussed how to cope with the situations.

Kan instructed his Cabinet to conduct intelligence gathering, surveillance and inspection activities to be fully prepared for any emergency.

At Kan’s instruction, all Cabinet members must stay in Tokyo and remain vigilant in principle from Saturday to Wednesday, when the drill will end, and be ready to go to their offices within an hour when instructed by the chief Cabinet secretary.

Maehara asked Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi Sunday in a phone conference for Beijing to urge Pyongyang to refrain from aggression.

A council of members of the Democratic Party of Japan, which was organized to increase Japan’s capacity to gather intelligence, urged Tokyo to establish a professional intelligence agency. With 50 party lawmakers as members, the council said Japan’s intelligence gathering and analysis functions are inefficient and weaker than those of other countries, and that because they are scattered at the foreign, defense and justice ministries, Japan urgently needs to establish an intelligence agency.

Major media also carried front page reports with the headlines, “South Korea-U.S. begins joint military drill Sunday,” “North Korea protests U.S. nuclear aircraft carrier’s participation in drill,” and “Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo makes urgent visit to Seoul.”

The Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun said, “The surprise visit by Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo, who directly communicates with President Hu Jintao, just one day ahead of the South Korea-U.S. joint military drill reflects that Beijing is taking the situation on the Korean Peninsula very seriously.”