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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #250: September 24, 2004

Japan Raises Defenses on Signs North Korea Plans Missile Test

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

"Japan Raises Defenses on Signs North Korea Plans Missile Test"
James Brooke, The New York Times


September 23 in Japan was the Autumnal Equinox day. Equinox is the day the sun crosses the celestial equator, making the lengths of the day and the night the same - all over the world for that matter. Along with the Vernal Equinox Day which occurs in late March, it has been designated as a holiday since the modern holiday system began, after the war, in 1948.

In fact, both of the equinox days had been designated as special days in Buddhism as the central day in "o-higan" since long before being nominated as holidays. "O-higan" is a Buddhist festivity observed from 3 days before to 3 days after the spring and fall equinox days. Many families visit their ancestors' graves to pay respect during the period. Although o-higan is observed by almost all of the Buddhist sects in Japan, it has not been found to be recognized in India or China, making the festivity uniquely Japanese.

It was on this holiday that the reports on possible launch of missiles by North Korea and Japan's reaction came in.

Reports say that the information gathered by US satellites, and the interpretations of the information by the US security authorities were conveyed to Japan last week. The Japanese government set up an ad hoc office at the Prime Minister's Office and sent a radio-surveillance aircraft, two destroyers, one of which equipped with Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, to the Sea of Japan to gather further information.

It was unusual, almost unprecedented, for the Japanese government to announce that it went to alert status during the event. This has invited both anxieties and skepticism.

Some "liberal" commentators have expressed the possibility of the whole event being a treachery staged by the US and Japan's "hawks," in the attempt to bloat the threats of North Korea, with the intention behind it to boost the popularities of Messrs, Koizumi and Bush.

Admittedly, the possibility of a scam cannot be flatly denied. And the reasoning that such a feat of launching a missile at this timing would not benefit North Korea is a sound observation - to the eyes of those living in a healthy society.

A problem, however, is that since North Koreans does not need to worry about their people's welfare, or even their lives, the government can adopt any reckless strategy, so long as a handful of "leaders" are safely sheltered from danger - including the possibility of them fleeing out of the country, while their people and the land are demolished.

It is therefore a prudent stance to keep a careful eye on the rogue regime under any circumstance.

There are, however, certain doubts as to whether Japan - or at least its media - is healthy. In the prime time news program at NHK, the national TV, the top news was the strike by professional baseball players devoting more than 10 minutes, and then this news on North Korea which lasted merely 2 minutes, out of the total 30-minute program. The editorial of the following morning's Nihon Keizai Shimbun - the newspaper supposed to be specialized in Economy, like the Wall Street Journal or the Financial Times was a comment on baseball strike and the attitudes of team owners, in which the editor scolded the owners to work harder to avoid future strikes.

While alarmists are the type of people generally undesired in media, there may be some use for them in a situation where everyone seems peace-addicted.

Copyright © Japanese Institute of Global Communications