Japan and North Korea: Ballistic Missile Enters Japanese Waters and Surreal Reality
Ri Kuk-Chok, Kanako Itamae, and Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
The government of Japan reacted strongly after North Korea launched a ballistic missile that entered the waters of Japan. However, political elites in North Korea will defend the decision based on the military build up of South Korea, and feeling threatened by perennial military forces of America being based in various parts of northeast Asia. Therefore, the perennial saber rattling from all sides will follow and in time this will be replaced by the usual stances taken by all players.
It is clear that regionally the nations of China, Japan, North Korean, the Russian Federation, South Korea, and Taiwan, upgrade their respective armed forces each year. Also, China and the Russian Federation are alarmed by South Korea introducing a missile system in the near future that favors the geopolitical desires of America.
Equally, America continues to have military bases in both Japan and South Korea. Likewise, the same armed forces of America also have bases throughout the Asia-Pacific. This reality alarms North Korea – just like China and the Russian Federation fear the containment policies of America. Seen in this light, then while nobody can argue with the authoritarian reality of North Korea, it is equally honest to say that the military angle is extremely complex from the point of view of Pyongyang.
The BBC says, “The missile was launched off the North’s east coast early on Wednesday and travelled about 1,000km (620 miles), one of the North’s longest launches to date.”
The Pacific Command of the United States reports, “Initial indications reveal one of the missiles exploded immediately after launch, while the second was tracked over North Korea and into the Sea of Japan.”
It should be remembered that America and Japan, and America and South Korea, regularly hold joint military drills. Similarly, China and the Russian Federation are highly active in Northeast Asia. In this context, and from North Korea’s point of view, then they are playing the same game – but from a lower budget and with being more contained.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan said strongly that the missile launch “…poses a serious threat to Japan’s security, and it is an unforgivable act of violence toward Japan’s security.”
Japan is rightly upset by the latest reckless ballistic missile launch but a sense of perspective is needed given the unique reality of North Korea. Equally, Japan can’t ignore voices emanating from China and the Russian Federation in relation to a new military system to be employed by South Korea. This issue, and many other factors including American military bases in Japan and South Korea respectively, means that the geopolitical situation is complex and multi-faceted.
South Korea’s military capability can’t be taken out of the equation for North Korea in relation to upgrading its military modernization processes. Reuters refers to the latest military developments in South Korea by reporting, “The decision to deploy THAAD is the latest move to squeeze the increasingly isolated North Korea, but China worries the system’s radar will be able to track its military capabilities. Russia also opposes the deployment.”
Overall, the sabre rattling on all sides does appear surreal because similar statements have been stressed for decades. Yes, the technological advancement of all nations does mean that events could spiral out of control quickly. Despite this, given the internal problems facing North Korea – and having the knowledge that America would respond without any constraints if Pyongyang went over the line, then the latest measure by North Korea will soon fade until the next issue or test emerges.
Modern Tokyo News is part of the Modern Tokyo Times group
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