Japan -a target?

Japan -a target?
North Korea has fired a ballistic missile across Japan. This is the second time the nation has done so in September 2017. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said that Japan would..

North Korea has fired a ballistic missile across Japan.

This is the second time the nation has done so in September 2017. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said that Japan would “never tolerate” such provocation.

Background

Relations between Japan and North Korea are strained. There are no formal relations established between the two nations. Before Korea was divided into two nations, it was occupied by Japan in 1910. The Japanese occupation came to an end with the end of the World War II. In the 1990s, there was an effort at establishing communication between North Korea and Japan. However, the first round of normalization talks, which took place in 1991 broke down almost immediately.

Since July 2017, North Korea has tested a number of missiles much to the concern of the international community. This includes intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). The United Nations has condemned these tests and has imposed harsh sanctions on the region. On 29th August, 2017, in a move that was seen as an escalation, North Korea flew a missile over Japan. It was a was a Hwasong-12 rocket and the missile was launched close to North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang. The missile reached an altitude of about 550km. It flew over Erimomoisaki on the Northern Island of Hokkaido before falling into the Pacific Ocean. It broke into three pieces and fell into North Pacific Ocean – 1,180km from the Japanese coast.

Analysis

In the span of just weeks, North Korea has fired another ballistic missile across Japan. This missile is said to have reached an altitude of 770km (478 miles). The missile travelled a distance of 3,700km. It flew over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. The missile was launched early in the morning at 6.57am local time and it fell into the Pacific Ocean.

Yoshihide Sug, Japan's chief cabinet secretary spoke about North Korea’s latest actions noting, “Japan protests the latest launch in the strongest terms and will take appropriate and timely action at the United Nations and elsewhere, staying in close contact with the United States and South Korea.”

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that the nation would "never tolerate" such "dangerous provocative action". In a statement he noted, “If North Korea continues to walk down this path, it has no bright future.”

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has called on China and Russia to step up and take action. The two countries are North Korea’s most powerful allies. He said, “China supplies North Korea with most of its oil. Russia is the largest employer of North Korean forced labor. China and Russia must indicate their intolerance for these reckless missile launches by taking direct actions of their own.”

Minutes after North Korea fired the missile, South Korea reacted by firing two ballistic missiles into the sea. The nation was reportedly simulating a strike on North Korea. Additionally, South Korean President Moon Jae-in held an emergency meeting with his national security council.

Assessment

Our assessment is that Japan along with the international community is running out of options to deter North Korea. It has become apparent that harsh sanctions have had little effect on the isolated nation. Perhaps it is time for China and Russia to initiate and moderate diplomatic dialogue to deescalate the crisis. A war in the Korean peninsula would result in catastrophic loss of life and land. 

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