North Korea has once again launched ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan. The country has not slowed its pace of missile development, regardless of how stern the protests raised against them. The time has now come to prepare for the worst: a missile strike launched against Japan by North Korea. While Japan already has in place a two-stage missile defense system, if North Korea were to launch several hundred missiles simultaneously it would likely be impossible to shoot every single missile down before it hit.
In the current (April) issue of Seiron magazine, former major general Yoshiaki Yano published an article titled “A new-generation weapon: railgun development must be accelerated,” in which he discusses a new kind of weapon, – the “railgun,” or an electromagnetic projectile launcher – which the U.S. Navy is developing as a kind of artillery piece.
However, unlike classic artillery weapons, the railgun uses electromagnetic fields to propel projectiles rather than the standard gunpowder. A railgun launches projectiles at approximately six times the speed of conventional artillery pieces, with a range of around 400 kilometers. Most important is that railguns can launch several hundred rounds per minute, making them especially attractive in that the barrage of firepower is capable of hitting virtually any target. According to Maj. Gen. Yano, pairing railguns with microwave weapons, which produce concentrated radiation heat using the same principles as microwave ovens in household kitchens, dramatically increases accuracy in bringing down incoming missiles.
Surely the high-level scientific and technical expertise possessed in Japan must be assembled and brought to bear on the development of this important new device. But whenever the Ministry of Defense attempts to provide research and development assistance to universities and other private-sector institutions, there is an immediate hue and cry of denunciation: “We don’t do military research.” The Science Council of Japan, the representative institution for Japanese scientists, is still breezily debating whether to revise this past refusal to cooperate in national defense, apparently unaware of the sword of Damocles hanging over all of Japan.
Scholars often argue that R&D in defense technology simply paves a way towards war. To those scholars we say, in the words of former Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara, “Are you just going to lie down and wait to die?”