Japan tightens Seoul, Washington ties after North Korea missile launch
Update 1: Adds Japan’s reaction, prime minister’s statements, changes headline
Tokyo, Feb 20 (EFE).- Japan said Monday it would work closely with the United States and South Korea, after North Korea launched two short-range missiles into the Sea of Japan and an intercontinental missile over the weekend.
“Japan continues to collect information and monitor the situation as close cooperation with the US and South Korea deepens,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters Monday.
He also said the latest launch “continues at the level of those that occurred this weekend” and called an emergency meeting with his Cabinet to continue evaluating the situation.
Japanese government Spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno also said these launches “violate the resolutions of the Security Council of the UN,” for which Japan would have already issued its protest to Pyongyang through diplomatic channels.
“These continuous missile launches by (North Korea) since last year have greatly increased the tension on the peninsula and the region. These acts threaten the peace and security of Japan, the region, and the international community, and we can never tolerate them.” Matsuno said.
The launches come after Sunday’s aerial drills carried out by Seoul and Washington following Pyongyang’s firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile on Saturday.
Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a statement that it detected two short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) launched from the vicinity of Sukchon, some 50 kilometers north of Pyongyang, between 7 am and 7.11 am local time (22:00-22:11 GMT Sunday) and that the projectiles fell into the Sea of Japan after traveling 390 and 340 kilometers, respectively.
North Korean state news agency KCNA reported that at 7 am (22:00 GMT Sunday) the army fired two projectiles into the Sea of Japan using a 600mm multiple rocket launcher that it described as capable of carrying out a “tactical nuclear attack” and capable of destroying “an enemy operational airfield.”
This rocket launcher, a large artillery device that is a modification of the system known as KN-25 and the projectiles of which Seoul qualifies as SRBMs, was released in the New Year by the regime. In a presentation, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said it is capable of carrying tactical nuclear warheads.
The launches come a day after South Korea and the US conducted aerial drills involving two Pentagon B-1B bombers following Pyongyang’s launch of a Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Saturday.
The projectile traveled more than 900 kilometers and reached an altitude of more than 5,700 km before falling in the waters of Japan’s Special Economic Zone, west of the island of Hokkaido.
“The enemies are persistently resorting to such military demonstrations, not concealing that the air drill was done in response to the ICBM launching drill by the DPRK on Feb. 18,” KCNA said Monday.
These North Korean launches come as the regular spring exercises by Seoul and Washington are being finalized, and will this week conduct a tabletop exercise simulating a North Korean nuclear attack for the first time.
Last Friday, Pyongyang promised “unprecedentedly persistent and strong counteractions” if the allies carried out their spring maneuvers, called Freedom Shield and which the regime described as “preparations for an aggression war.” EFE