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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #253: October 5, 2004

Japan May Consider Pre-emptive Strike Capability

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

"Japan May Consider Pre-emptive Strike Capability"


The Council on Security and Defense Capabilities, commissioned by the Prime Minister, has compiled a report titled "Vision of Security and Defense Capabilities for the Future" and submitted it to Prime Minister Koizumi.

According the official announcement, "the report incorporated proposals for transition from the concept of 'basic defense force' which has been the basis of Japan's defense policy since the time of the Cold War to a new concept of development of 'multi-functional and flexible defense capabilities' in order to deal with the various threats that Japan faces from terrorism and ballistic missiles."

The basic guideline for national defense formulated by the government has not been reviewed for almost a decade. The "vision" is to set the base for the government to review the guideline by the year-end. It proposes that, in response to diversifying threats, the nation's defense policy should integrate national security with international efforts to improve security, placing an equal emphasis on both approaches.

It also calls for a review of the current Principles on Arms Exports, which prohibits exports of weapons and related technology to any country. As Japan's defense is largely covered by the US under the Security Treaty, and Japan's Self Defense Forces use US made equipments, it was suggested that the export embargo on weapons should be relaxed at least with the US. For one thing, it was considered inconsistent to halt providing equipment to the US military who, according to the Treaty, is assigned to protect Japan.

In fact, the whole "Vision" proposes to streamline and cut cost with regard to defense, by scaling down those facilities envisioned for large-scale state-against-state wars, and prepare for small encounters in nearby sea/air, terrorist attacks, and missile threats.

The article introduced above was written by an established, well-versed, experienced reporter at Reuters. And, of course, Reuters is a well-recognized news agency with contracts with just about every major media in the world. Accordingly, what is reported in Reuters is cited, with or without disclosing that it being the source, depending on the contract and other reasons, and often in a modified form, in a large number of media globally. As such, reports by a respectable news agency such as Reuters should be accurate, free from bias, and not misleading. This time, however, they may have a little too eager in selling their report.

The caption is very visible indeed. Technically it is not inaccurate, as it does not say, "Japan is considering...," but it could still be very misleading. For one thing, the word "may" is used very cunningly here. In a similar context, it could be said that the writer of this news article "may become the richest man in the world." Also, the term "pre-emptive strike" gives the impression that the notion is discussed in the "Vision." It is not, and in fact, a few paragraphs down in the article, there is a confession. "In a sign of the sensitivity of the subject, the report avoided the use of the term 'pre-emptive strike."

The "Vision" is not a lengthy document but not brief enough for it to be summarized in a couple of paragraphs. Also, as with any such document, the language aside from being it in Japanese - is not necessarily straightforward in some places. Perhaps this is why the reporter, in an effort to sound clear and attractive, came up with such a caption.

There seem to be no major faults within the article, though some might certainly feel it to be biased with the idea that Japan is a hawkish society. As any sincere scholar would tell you, accessing to the original document is advisable, especially there is a vast room for various political intensions to sneak in during interpreting and epitomizing the material.

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