Saturday, April 4, 2009

Jumping the gun

The weather is apparently clear in North Korea, and the Korean Central News Agency has announced that the DPRK will soon send its satellite into orbit.

Japan is on hair trigger alert. The defense ministry has indicated that it will announce its response to the rocket launch within minutes, using information from US early-warning satellites and the US and Japanese warships deployed around Japan. The Kantei's subterranean command center is active, ready to gather information that will then by conveyed simultaneously to Japan's localities and the news media, although Sankei, in one of its many reports on the impending launch, noted that Prime Minister Aso is not letting it interfere with his usual schedule. Not to be left out, even the DPJ has created a rapid-response office to articulate the party's position should North Korea carry out the launch.

The result of all this readiness? False alarms, naturally.

In Akita at 10:50am Saturday, a GSDF liaison officer in the Tohoku region informed firefighters and representatives of cities, town, and villages that the "missile had been launched at 10:48am," prompting the representatives to send word back to their municipalities. A couple hours the central government made a similar error, informing news organizations that the launch had occurred, only to rescind the message five minutes later.

I am curious to see the political impact of this spectacle. (As long as no one gets hurt, it is a spectacle.)

North Korea has gotten the attention it craves, and the Aso government has been given an opportunity to show that Japan won't be surprised by North Korea a second time, that investments in missile defense haven't been in vain, and that the LDP-led government is committed to keeping the Japanese people safe from the villain from Central Casting next door.

All very theatrical.

Whether it remains theatrical will depend on whether debris plummets in Japan's direction and whether Japan feels compelled to fire at it, at which point everything becomes deadly serious.

UPDATE: Tottori prefecture also received mistaken reports of a launch from the central government at around noon.

Komeito has already said that the false alarms are "shameful."

If North Korea launches a satellite without Japan's having to fire at falling rocket components, the biggest story to come out of the launch may be the faulty warning system that the government had been so proud of during the buildup to the launch. The DPJ will surely have a field day with it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Theater indeed. Notice that the PAC-3 launchers shown deployed have "inert training round" labeled on the canisters!