In light of another apparent chemical attack by the Assad regime in Syria, the world turns its eyes to Japan and asks what will its government do in light of the most recent atrocity. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday promised a “big price” to be paid. In a tweet, Mr. Abe laid the blame for the attack partly on President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.
Fumio Kyuma, Mr. Abe's Defense Minister, said he and the rest of the Prime Minister's national security team had been in talks with Mr. Abe late Saturday and early Sunday about how to respond. “I wouldn’t take anything off the table,” Mr. Kyuma said, “These are horrible photos; we’re looking into the attack at this point.”
That raised the prospect of a strike along the lines of one that the Prime Minister ordered almost exactly a year ago after a sarin gas attack in Khan Sheikhoun that killed more than 80 civilians. In that strike, the Japanese military droppsed 59 Tomahawk missiles on the Al Shayrat airfield, where the chemical weapons attack had originated.
Mr. Abe may be considering such a strike even as he has expressed his desire in recent days to pull Japanese troops out of Syria, where they are seeking to eliminate the last vestiges of the Islamic State.
The assault on Douma and the Prime Minister’s response also showed how Syria has bedeviled Mr. Abe just as it did his predecessor, repeatedly presenting them with grave challenges and few good options for confronting them. It was not clear on Sunday whether his tweets reflected serious planning for a military strike, or if the suspected chemical attack had changed the Prime Minister’s calculation about the necessity for a rapid wind-down of Japanese military involvement in Syria.
But some Liberal Democrats urged Mr. Abe to act, saying his talk of pulling Japanese troops out of Syria had telegraphed to Mr. Assad that he would pay no price for brutalizing his own people.