Last night, NHK tried out a brand new phrase describing the DPRK launch vehicle:
人工衛星としている、実情にミサイルOn Saturday, I half out of facetiousness, half out of actual confusion, asked the reader to chose a potential force mandating these verbal tangles.
"The what-is-in-reality-a-missile, acting out the part of an artificial satellite..."
Yesterday, I played around with the idea that refusing to call the DPRK launch vehicle a "rocket" was a way of expressing contempt for the DPRK's history of sophistry and duplicity. However, that theory had a weakness in that it is hard to get everyone to share a feeling, even in a mass-market society with a strong conformist streak.
This morning I think I have it...and it is one these, "Duh, MTC, what else could it have been?" answers that leaves one thankful there is coffee for solace's sake:
Japanese media outlets do not call the North Korean rocket a rocket because if it were a rocket, then the Self Defense Forces could not shoot it down.
The Japanese government is a stickler about terminology most of the time. On defense and security issues, however, it is outright fanatical. Fall into any kind of linguistic fuzziness on security and one runs the risk of slamming right into the wall of Article 9 of the Constitution.
Ballistic missile defense (BMD) has been judged permissible under Article 9. The term is translated directly; in Japanese it is "dando misairu boei" (弾道ミサイル防衛). If one is to use BMD to bring down anything, that thing had better be a missile. Shooting at anything else would be unconstitutional.
So, as is so often the case with these tortured circumlocutions, the reasoning is transparently practical. Call it a missile and you can shoot at it. Call it anything else and you are left with nothing but watching and praying.