National / Politics

Abe considering collecting North Korean missile debris in Japan's exclusive economic zone

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his government is “seriously considering” collecting the debris of North Korean ballistic missiles that fell in Japan’s exclusive economic zone in the Sea of Japan earlier this year.

“The collection would be significant” though technically difficult, Abe said during a session Tuesday of the Upper House Budget Committee.

The Defense Ministry confirmed a ballistic missile launched Aug. 3 by North Korea fell in Japan’s EEZ, 250 km west of Akita Prefecture, marking the first time that the nose cone of a North Korean missile has landed in the EEZ.

On Sept. 5, three North Korean missiles fell in Japan’s EEZ off Okushiri Island near Hokkaido, according to the government.

Defense Minister Tomomi Inada told the committee session that “we could attain information regarding (missile) performance and manufacturing technologies if we collect the debris.”

But Hirokazu Matsuno, minister of education and science, bought up the possibility that the debris has sunk to a depth of 3,000 meters, saying, “It is difficult to tell now whether we could find it.”

Meanwhile, Song Il Ho, North Korea’s ambassador for negotiations to normalize relations with Japan, reacted sharply to the possibility of Japan tightening its sanctions in the wake of Pyongyang’s fifth nuclear test in September, according to a member of a bilateral friendship association in Fukuoka Prefecture.

Song was quoted as saying during a meeting Oct. 5 with association members at a Pyongyang hotel that if the Japanese government tightens its sanctions “Japan’s national security environment would face an irreparable situation” and North Korea would take countermeasures.

The government and Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party are considering slapping a re-entry ban on more high-ranking officials of Chongryon, a large pro-Pyongyang group also known as the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan.