A ranking Japanese government official has said Tokyo will intercept any North Korean missile that is judged a threat to the country or its allies.
Itsunori Onodera, the Japanese Minister of Defense, made the announcement in a media interview, adding that the U.S. has also considered downing North Korean missiles regardless of their intended trajectory if Washington felt they were an “inherent threat.”
North Korean has test-fired missiles at an increasingly rapid pace this year, with at least two sailing over Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido. The tests come amid threats from Pyongyang to “sink” Japan and reduce it to “ashes and darkness” for Tokyo’s support of increased economic sanctions.
Onodera, the Japanese defense official, said that shooting down a missile could be seen as an act of war and added that Japan would be ready to do so if a missile were targeted at an ally. Despite his conservative position on countering missile tests, the Minister of Defense said he supported Trump’s “strong language” against North Korea, including referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “Rocket Man” in his address to the United Nations.
Analyst comment: This represents a substantial departure from Japan’s historic pacifism post-World War II, but it also reflects a growing reality that the country is situated in an increasingly dangerous part of the world, where North Korea pursues nuclear weapons and a nuclear-armed China seeks regional dominance. Japan either has to come into its own or resolve itself to being dominated by potentially belligerent nation-states.
Why it’s on our radar: Information in this article helps satisfy Priority Intelligence Requirement 3: What are the latest indicators of a U.S.-North Korea war? Each week in our Strategic Intelligence Summary, we gauge the likelihood and scope of conflict with Russia, China, North Korea, and in the Middle East, and track the latest developments in each region. Subscribe here to receive our premium intelligence products prepared by Intelligence and special operations veterans.