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Responses on North Korea's rocket launch: Government's 'military-only' vs. JCP's 'diplomacy-first' policy contrast

Faced with the issue of North Korea's rocket launch, which actually took place on April 5, the Japanese government has sought to respond militarily without making any diplomatic efforts to urge North Korea to exercise restraint.

Prime Minister Aso Taro on March 2 suggested that Japan is ready to intercept a possible missile launch by North Korea by invoking the Self-Defense Forces Law.

Defense Minister Hamada Yasukazu on March 3 stated that the SDF will intercept anything that has the possibility of falling on Japanese territory, including a satellite.

On March 12, when North Korea reported to the concerned international organizations that it would launch a satellite, Aso stated that there is no need to change the Japanese government's view that North Korea's rocket launch, whether it is for a satellite, goes against the United Nations Security Council resolution.

Aso insisted that his government would take further punitive measures against any North Korean rocket launch."

The Japanese Communist Party has been consistent in opposing military responses to any possible North Korean rocket launch.

On an NHK 'Sunday Debate' program aired on March 22, JCP member of the House of Representatives Kasai Akira said, "It is important to urge North Korea not to do anything that would increase tensions and that Japan should not worsen the situation by underlining its readiness to respond militarily to North Korea's announced rocket launch.

Also, JCP Chair Shii Kazuo spoke at the press conference on March 26 that it is all the more important for the Japanese government to engage in diplomatic efforts so that North Korea might be encouraged to refrain from launching a rocket. Shii has made clear that the JCP will never support a military response from Japan.

On March 27, the government confirmed that it would invoke the SDF Law to order the SDF to destroy any North Korean "missiles" entering Japanese territory. The SDF deployed PAC-3 missile units in five locations in Northeast Japan and Aegis-equipped destroyers armed with SM-3s in the Sea of Japan.

Commenting on the government's response, Tokyo Shimbun on April 3 wrote that it is fanning fears of North Korean threats and that Japan is overreacting the North Korean rocket launch announcement.

On April 4, the Japanese government made blunders twice by releasing inaccurate reports on the North's rocket launch.

Later, JCP Shii said to reporters, "That was a disastrous response that relayed the wrong information to the public and fueled their fears. They should be held responsible for their incometence."

- Akahata, April 6, 2009

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