TOKYO – When North Korea fired a ballistic missile into Japan this week, it triggered international condemnation. But he also raised the question: why Japan?
This may seem obvious, but geography is often an important factor in geopolitical disputes. The Japanese archipelago forms a long chain on the continental coast of North Asia, so by definition any regional player wishing to fire a medium- or long-range missile in the Pacific must examine it.
Tuesday’s projectile traveled about 2,700 kilometers from its launch site near Pyongyang before crashing into the ocean, about 1,200 kilometers from the island of Hokkaido in northern Japan.
Having threatened a few weeks ago with firing missiles at the peaceful territory of Guam, about 3,500 kilometers, the band may have been selected to remind Washington that Pyongyang has the ability to follow it.
But unlike the entry of this control and the risk of conflict with the greatest military power in the world, firing missiles against pacifist Japan was not likely to provoke an armed response.
Therefore, Tuesday’s launch has allowed Pyongyang to be an important ally of the United States, which houses US military bases and tens of thousands of US soldiers, while demonstrating that it has the ability to hit Guam if it wants.
“He is also sending a message that Japan is okay in his view if a war erupts,” said Professor Koh Yu-Hwan at Dongguk University in AFP. North Korea has hinted at another reason why Japan was in its point of view: history.
On Wednesday, the missile was scheduled to mark the 107th anniversary of the “shameful” Japan-Korea treaty of 1910, under which Tokyo colonized the Korean Peninsula.
The official KCNA Northern Information Service said that leader Kim Jong-Un “has given his wish for the Korean people to breathe” with “a bold plan to insulate islanders on August 29.”
Japan’s colonization of a unified Korea was inaugurated in a period of oppressive rule that ended only with the defeat of Tokyo in World War II.
The imperial army forced thousands of Korean women to work as sex slaves in military brothels in times of war, a practice that weighs heavily on ties to both Koreas today.
Tokyo-Pyongyang relations also tensed up in the abduction of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s to train North Korean spies.
Japan has almost exhausted its diplomatic options. Most of the world condemns the development of nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons in North Korea and, like the United States, Tokyo has already imposed sanctions against Pyongyang, extending them as recently as last week.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will call for pressure on Pyongyang – probably more sanctions – when it attends the UN General Assembly next month. Few experts believe this will produce significant changes.
Internally, the launch gives Japan a reason to strengthen its missile defense system, including the adoption of an Aegis land-based anti-missile defense system to complement its maritime system and likely to stimulate calls for a satellite weather forecasting system.
It could also refer to the debate on Japan’s nuclear deterrence, especially if the North conducts another atomic test. But it is a delicate subject, given the history of Japan as the only nation that has already been attacked by nuclear weapons.