Tensions increase between Japan and North Korea

UN Security Council: North Korea is prohibited from developing ballistic missiles by the U.N. Security Council. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

By Jonas Jamarik

North Korean state media has labelled Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as an “imbecile” and a “political dwarf” after Abe criticized their latest rocket-missile tests. After two short-range rockets were fired near the eastern coast of North Korea, Abe called a National Security cabinet meeting in Tokyo and criticized North Korea’s tests as “a grave challenge to the international community.”

This prompted a response from an unnamed member of North Korea’s department of Japanese affairs, saying “Abe is the only one idiot in the world and the most stupid man ever known in history as he fails to distinguish a missile from multiple launch rocket system.” The statement also contains a line generating much controversy saying that “(Abe) may see what a real ballistic missile is in the not distant future and under his nose.” Currently, North Korea is prohibited from developing, much less firing ballistic missiles of any type by the U.N. Security Council.

The type of projectiles fired is believed to be KN-25, a model that is very similar to ballistic missiles. Some experts have said that Abe’s labelling of the projectiles as ballistic missiles is meant to signify that the tests violate U.N. resolution. North Korea, on the other hand, is saying it is testing multi-launch rocket systems, which is different from ballistic missiles. Nevertheless, North Korea’s warning now suggests that it is preparing to test longer-range missiles. 

In May of this year Shinzo Abe said he was ready to meet with Kim Jong-Un “without conditions” and was planning to start talks about North Korea’s nuclear issues, as well as other issues that have long weighed on the diplomatic relationship between the two countries, such as the kidnapping of 17 Japanese citizens by North Korea during the 1970’s and 80’s, only five of whom have been allowed to return to Japan so far. 

Soon after, Mr Abe criticized North Korea’s previous missile tests and has maintained economic sanctions against the country, angering Pyongyang’s leadership. By fall of this year, officials in Pyongyang were saying that relations with Japan were “going from bad to worse” due to Japan opposing more missile tests from North Korea and the above-mentioned historic differences. 

Earlier this year South Korea invited Kim Jong-Un to a summit between Southeast Asian leaders in Busan which he declined, accusing the summit of not upholding its agreements made in previous meetings. North Korea has also demanded more respect in its nuclear missile talks with the US, insisting that they will not discuss the issue until “the U.S. abolishes all hostile policies toward North Korea.”

The US features prominently in North Korea’s recent missile tests. It is believed that the country’s short-range artillery is being improved by these tests, which are largely ignored by Donald Trump. The danger is that North Korea’s short-range advances could be applied to their medium-range missiles as well, which poses a serious threat for Japan.

As Mr Abe reaches his eighth anniversary as Prime Minister of Japan, it, unfortunately, seems that one of his main foreign policy aims, the warming of Japan’s relations with North Korea, is currently out of reach.

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