In the aftermath of the collision between the Atago, one of the MSDF’s most sophisticated Aegis-equipped destroyers, and a fishing boat on Tuesday, questions have been raised about the vulnerabilities of MSDF ships to terrorist attacks like the one that crippled the USS Cole in 2000, and, more importantly, the gross inadequacies of the Japanese government’s crisis response system. (See MTC’s post showing just how inadequate that system remains, despite more than a decade of efforts to strengthen Japan’s ability to respond to crises.) Prime Minister Fukuda himself highlighted the deficiencies of the government’s crisis management capabilities in his weekly mail magazine.
The upshot is that now the DPJ is calling for Mr. Ishiba to resign his position, with Hatoyama Yukio suggesting that if Mr. Ishiba does not resign, this may be an occasion for the House of Councillors to pass a censure motion.
It is entirely possible that Mr. Ishiba will be thrown under the bus by Mr. Fukuda. If criticism grows over the government’s handling of this incident — at the same time that the government’s support continues to fall — the pressure to make Mr. Ishiba the scapegoat may prove irresistible, especially since his efforts to reform the Defense Ministry have made him enemies not just within the ministry and the JSDF, but also within the LDP.
Pity that Mr. Ishiba wants to streamline the ministry and improve coordination between the JSDF and the ministry’s civilians, reforms that might actually strengthen the government’s ability to respond to crises in the future.
UPDATE: It appears that for the moment Prime Minister Fukuda will not make a scapegoat of Mr. Ishiba; he suggested that it is improper to talk of such things when lives are at stake.