Japan warns about nuclear weapons threat from North Korea
Tokyo,August8:Japan has warned that the threat from North Korean nuclear weapons has reached a “new stage” now that it appears to have developed an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the US mainland.
In its defence white paper, Japan’s government said Pyongyang’s weapons programme had “advanced considerably”, despite years of international sanctions designed to stall its ability to develop long-range missiles and nuclear warheads.
The 563-page white paper, approved by Japan’s cabinet on Tuesday morning, was published less than two weeks after North Korea test-fired its second ICBM, which US experts have said may be able to reach most of the continental United States.
“Since last year, when (North Korea) forcibly implemented two nuclear tests and more than 20 ballistic missile launches, the security threats have entered a new stage,” the report said.
That missile was fired at an extremely lofted angle and landed about 200 kilometers (120 miles) off Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido.
The report was unclear, however, on whether North Korea had acquired the technological know-how to fire a nuclear-tipped missile that would be able to re-enter earth’s atmosphere intact, according to Kyodo news.
The report also cited Pyongyang’s attempts to improve its ability to conduct a surprise attack using solid-fuel missiles, which can be prepared for launch in less time than liquid-fueled rockets and are therefore harder to detect.
“The risk that North Korea will deploy nuclear-tipped missiles covering Japanese territory will grow as time passes,” it warned.
The paper voiced particularly concern about Chinese naval activity near the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea.
It pointed out that Japan had scrambled a record number of jets in the 12 months to March this year in response to Chinese aircraft flying close to Japanese airspace.
“There is a possibility that their naval activities, as well as air force activities, will pick up pace in the Sea of Japan from now on,” the report said. “We need to keep a close eye on the Chinese navy’s activity.