Japan defense chief: could have pre-emptive strike ability in future

Thu Feb 14, 2013 1:49am EST
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By Kiyoshi Takenaka

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan has the right to develop the ability to make a pre-emptive strike against an imminent attack given a changing security environment although it has no plan to do so now, the defense minister said on Thursday, days after North Korea conducted a third nuclear test.

Any sign that Japan was moving to develop such a capability in response to North Korea's nuclear program could upset neighbors China and South Korea, which have reacted strongly in the past to suggestions it might do so.

"When an intention to attack Japan is evident, the threat is imminent, and there are no other options, Japan is allowed under the law to carry out strikes against enemy targets," Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera told Reuters in an interview.

"Given Japan's political environment and the peace-oriented diplomacy it has observed, this is not the time to make preparations (for building such capability).

"But we need to carefully observe the changing security environment in the region."

North Korea conducted its third nuclear test on Tuesday, drawing condemnation from the United States, Japan, Europe and the North's only major ally, China.

Onodera said Japan needed to strengthen its ballistic missile defense in view of the North Korean threat.

"Japan, the United States and South Korea managed to respond well to North Korea's missile launch on December 12. But North Korea is expected to boost various capabilities further. We need to improve corresponding capabilities as well."   Continued...

Japan's Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera speaks to reporters at the Defence Ministry in Tokyo February 5, 2013. REUTERS/Yuya Shino