North Korea on Monday issued veiled threat of a nuclear strike on Japan, vowing to make the country “disappear at once” if Tokyo continues with what Pyongyang termed “war hysteria.”
“Japan itself will not be safe once a war breaks out on the Korean Peninsula,” the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency said in a commentary. “Everything of Japan to be involved in the war may disappear at once together with the U.S. military bases in Japan.
“Japan’s crazy ride on a militarist chariot will only make it fall into a pitfall of ruin,” it added.
The North often threatens to target Japan and U.S. bases on Japanese territory. In October, it said it would bring “nuclear clouds” to the Japanese archipelago and in March it launched a barrage of missiles it claimed was training for a strike on U.S. military bases in the country.
Last week, in a powerful display of ever-improving U.S.-Japan military ties, Japanese vessels, including the Ise helicopter destroyer — one of the largest warships in its fleet — trained with three U.S. aircraft carriers in what the Maritime Self-Defense Force said was a “natural” part of efforts to “stabilize” the regional security situation.
It was the first time the MSDF had drilled with so many carriers.
That military muscle-flexing came during the tail end of Donald Trump’s inaugural trip to Asia as the U.S. president. Trump used the tour to corral further support for isolating North Korea, which conducted its largest-ever nuclear test in September and has test-fired dozens of missiles this year — including some thought capable of striking the mainland United States.
Two of those missiles, intermediate-range weapons designed to carry a nuclear payload, also flew over Japan. Those flights, the first of such a missile, have done much to galvanize support for Japan beefing up its defensive arsenal, including the purchase of more advanced U.S. weaponry pitched by Trump during his stop in Japan earlier this month.
Citing the joint exercises and potential arms deals in its commentary, the North said Japan’s leaders had “gone beyond the red line in their risky military moves.”
“Although over seven decades have passed since Japan’s defeat, the Japan militarists’ wild ambition has never changed but is being revived by their descendants,” it added in an apparent dig at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose grandfather Nobusuke Kishi was a key figure in the World War II-era government.
Abe has worked closely with Trump to ramp up United Nations and unilateral sanctions on Pyongyang, part of the two countries’ “maximum pressure” approach to reining in its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.