Japan’s defense chief has warned that North Korea
’s perceived nuclear threat is no routine issue, urging the international community to view it as “unprecedented, critical and imminent.”
“The threat posed by North Korea
has grown to the unprecedented, critical and imminent level,” Itsunori Onodera said Monday, adding that the growing threat has compelled Japan to agree with the US that all options, including military action, should be considered against Pyongyang.
Onodera’s comments came at the outset of a meeting in the Philippines with US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and South Korea’s defense minister, Song Young-moo. The three met on the sidelines of a gathering of defense ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
The Japanese minister it could not be ruled out that a nuclear test by North Korea last month, described by experts as the most powerful test conducted by Pyongyang, was a hydrogen bomb.
This photo released by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on September 3, 2017 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) looking at a metal casing with two bulges at an undisclosed location. (Photo by AFP)
“The country has steadfastly improved its nuclear and missiles capability,” he said, adding, “Therefore, we have to take calibrated and different responses to meet that level of threat.”
Japan became specifically worried about North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs when Pyongyang fired two long-range missiles over the island nation last month. North Korea has also responded to threats of military action by the United States, saying it could easily target Japan, a close US ally.
The standoff over North Korea escalated in July when Pyongyang test-fired two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). Experts say the entire US mainland is within the range of the missiles which North Korea says could be equipped with nuclear warheads.
North Korea has blamed the US for escalation in tensions, saying Washington’s engineering of crippling international sanctions on the country and its increased military presence in the region have left the government in Pyongyang with no option but to shore up its defense capabilities.