National

North Korea says 'crafty' Japan views tension as 'good opportunity'

by Jesse Johnson

Staff Writer

North Korea has lambasted the Japan-U.S. security alliance, labeling Tokyo “crafty” and claiming that Japan views tension on the Korean Peninsula as a “good opportunity” to loosen constitutional restraints on its military.

The remarks, in a commentary run by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency, follow a military drill Tuesday that saw the nuclear-armed nation fire an intermediate-range missile over Hokkaido. The exercise — the first unannounced launch of a missile designed to carry a nuclear payload to fly over Japan — triggered global condemnation, including a strong response from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who called it an “unprecedented, grave and serious” threat.

In its commentary, the North blasted recent meetings with top U.S. officials that had focused on extended deterrence, missile defense and an enhanced role for Japan in the alliance. It also took Tokyo to task over a series of joint military exercises, including one in Hokkaido that wrapped up Monday, that it said were training for an invasion of the North.

“Taking the increased tension on the Korean peninsula as a ‘good opportunity’ for realizing the constitutional revision and the ambition for emerging a military giant, Japan has now come out with its sleeves rolled up in supporting its master’s anti-DPRK war moves while vociferating about the ‘threat from the north,’ ” the commentary said late Wednesday, using the acronym for the North’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

It said the allies’ “military nexus” had become a “serious threat” to the Korean Peninsula and that “crafty Japan is seeking to attain its strategic goal with the help of the U.S.,” but that Tokyo was “unaware” it was “accelerating self-destruction.”

“The U.S. and Japan had better be thoughtful over the DPRK’s warning,” the commentary concluded.

U.S.-Japan military ties have grown stronger following 2015’s defense guideline update and the passage of Abe-backed security legislation the same year, which enables Tokyo to exercise a limited right of collective self-defense, or militarily aiding an ally under attack, if it judges the threat to Japan as “existential.”

North Korea’s continued provocations — including Tuesday’s overflight and a drill in March that Pyongyang said was practice for attacking U.S. military bases in Japan — have stoked growing concern in Tokyo.

Both drills involved military units “tasked with striking the bases” of American forces, according to North Korean state media. The country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, said the missile exercises would continue — possibly including more overflights of Japan.

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