Following the landslide victory by Prime Minister Abe in Japan's Sunday elections, which left his ruling coalition with a supermajority allowing him to change Japan's constitution, Abe wasted no time in signalling a push towards his long-held goal of revising Japan's post-war, pacifist constitution, however as Reuters reported earlier, Abe would "need to convince a divided public to succeed." Parties in favor of amending the U.S.-drafted charter won nearly 80% of the seats in Sunday’s lower house election, leaving the small, new Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ) as the biggest group opposed to Abe’s proposed changes. Still, Abe claimed he wanted to get other parties on board, including Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike’s new conservative Party of Hope, and was not insisting on a target of changing the constitution by 2020 that he floated this year.
Yet, despite Abe's soothing vision, just one day after the election Japan was already setting the groundwork for creating the strawman that would be needed to get public support largely behind Abe's militant venture.
As a result, Japan’s defense minister said on Monday that North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities have grown to an “unprecedented, critical and imminent” level, requiring “different responses” to the threat.
The minister, Itsunori Odonera, was quoted by AP as saying that this rising threat compels his country to endorse the U.S. view that “all options” must be considered, which President Donald Trump says includes possible military action. And since this pivot would require a revised constitution, the next step is already in play.
Odonera’s comments came at the outset of a so-called trilateral meeting in the Philippines (where over the weekend Russia was "delivering" weapons to the Duterte regime, as reported overnight) with U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and South Korea’s defense minister, Song Young-moo. Each made statements about North Korea before a group of reporters and news cameras, but none took questions according to AP.
Mattis was in the Philippines to attend portions of a two-day meeting of defense ministers from the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations. He used the occasion to hold a three-way meeting with his counterparts from Japan and South Korea. He is scheduled later in the week to travel to Seoul to attend annual consultative talks with the South Korean government, which is expected to focus mostly on North Korea.
Elevating the North Korea bogeyman to unprecedented levels, and assuring that "no crisis will go to waste", Odonera said North Korea’s most recent underground nuclear test could have been a hydrogen bomb, which is vastly more powerful than an atomic bomb.
“The country has steadfastly improved it nuclear and missiles capability,” said Onodera. He added: “The threat posed by North Korea has grown to the unprecedented, critical and imminent level.”
“Therefore, we have to take calibrated and different responses to meet that level of threat,” he said, without elaborating on what “different” responses Japan favors.
Trump has said he will resolve the North Korea problem alone if necessary, to prevent the North from gaining the capability to attack the United States with a nuclear-armed missile.
As usual, the far cooler Mattis - who clearly does not have a constitution-revising agenda - was much more reserved in his remarks than Onodera, although he did slam Pyongyang for defying U.N. Security Council resolutions against its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. But the U.S. defense secretary did not mention any potential military action. Mattis instead emphasized a unified U.S.-Japan-South Korea position in pressuring the North to give up its nuclear program.
“North Korea’s provocations threaten regional and global security,” he said.
Meanwhile, South Korea’s defense minister, Song, said that North Korea’s behavior is “becoming worse and worse.” In brief remarks to reporters, earlier on Monday Song was asked about the risk of war against North Korea.
“I want to emphasize that war is not as easy as the journalists make it sound in the press and the media,” he said. “As defense ministers who are in charge of national defense and other high tech weapons such as ballistic missiles, we understand the very weight of engaging in a war and as such we will make all the efforts necessary to resolve the issue in a diplomatic and economic way as possible.”
He added: “However, if we are attacked then we will have to take firm actions.”
Most importantly, however, is that it has been a month since North Korea has engaged in any provocative actions, and contrary to expectations that it would launch a ballistic missile in early and mid October, so far Pyongyang has - despite launching the occasional verbal grande at Trump - kept a low profile. Which considering it is now in Japan's best interest to have a provocative neighbor who will greenlight the desired constitutional changes, will likely change in the near future.