North Korea Suspected of Possible Nuclear Test: Japan needs a Fresh Approach

North Korea Suspected of Possible Nuclear Test: Japan needs a Fresh Approach

Ri Kuk-Chok, Kanako Itamae, and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times


According to various reports, it appears that North Korea did a nuclear test after an “artificial earthquake” of magnitude 5.3 was detected. This detection took place near a nuclear site, therefore, providing further credence to reports being made by various sources.

In Japan, it is essential that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the Foreign Ministry respond in a diplomatic way. If not, then tensions will only further increase because with South Korea upgrading its military capability by the installation of THAAD, then the Korean Peninsula is already beset with increasing tensions between both Korea’s. Therefore, it is in the national interest of Japan to condemn the nuclear test once confirmed and then focus on a fresh approach. This approach – despite many internal misgivings – must be based on increasing dialogue with the political and military elites of North Korea.

The BBC reports, “Recent satellite imagery and intelligence has indicated increased activity at the Punggye-ri site, where North Korea carried out its previous nuclear tests, indicating a fifth was imminent.”

Japan rather than taking the approach of America and South Korea should focus on a new way. In other words, Japan should foster closer ties with China and the Russian Federation whereby new channels with Pyongyang can be developed. At the same time, Japan will continue to remain a firm ally of America because both nations have favorable relations. Indeed, for Japan, it is clear that America is the backbone of Japan’s military and geopolitical planning despite adopting more independent policies, for example, opening up more to the Russian Federation in recent times despite political pressure from America.

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 recent 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.”

Turning back to the suspected nuclear test by North Korea then the BBC reports, “North Korea analyst Jeffrey Lewis, at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in the US, told Reuters the size of Friday’s tremor indicated a device with a 20 to 30 kilotonne yield.”

Japan is now investigating the situation because relevant ministries are gathering information from various internal and external sources. If confirmed that North Korea did a nuclear test – and with recent missile developments in zones claimed by Japan – then Japan must take a greater dimensional approach.

This applies to refuting North Korea strongly with other major powers but being more open to finding a fresh approach. Internationally, this applies to Japan fostering closer ties with China and the Russian Federation – and acknowledging the role of South Korea in modernizing its military capability. Similarly, while Japan will remain to be a close ally of America for the foreseeable future and a backbone of nation security for the political elites in Tokyo, this shouldn’t refrain Japan from questioning the THAAD system in relation to America and South Korea.


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