North Korea threatens strong military steps against Japan

AP Photo / Ahn Young-joon
Protesters confront police officers during a rally to oppose Japan’s adoption of a new national security strategy near the Japanese Embassy in Seoul on Tuesday.

SEOUL (AP) — North Korea threatened Tuesday to take “bold and decisive military steps” against Japan as it slammed Tokyo’s adoption of a national security strategy as an attempt to turn the country into an aggressive military power.

The North’s statement came four days after Japan announced a security strategy that reflects its determination to possess “counterstrike” capability and double its military spending to gain a more offensive footing against threats from China and North Korea.

The North’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Japan’s push to acquire counterstrike capability has nothing to do with self-defense but is a clear attempt to acquire “pre-emptive attack capability meant to launch strikes on other countries’ territories.”

“Japan’s foolish attempt to satiate its black-hearted greed — the building up of its military invasion capability with the pretext of a legitimate exercise of self-defense rights — cannot be justified and tolerated,” an unidentified ministry spokesperson said in a statement carried by state media.

The statement accused the United States of supporting and promoting the Japanese military ambitions and undermining regional peace. It said such alleged U.S. moves are forcing North Korea to work hard to complete its plans to develop new strategic weapons to thwart enemy attempts to invade the North.

The statement said North Korea wants to make sure it can take “bold and decisive military steps” to protect its sovereignty and national interests in the wake of the complexity of regional security caused by the Japanese security strategy.

“Our country will continue to take actions to show how much we are concerned and displeased with Japan’s unjust, greedy attempt to realize its ambitions,” the statement said.

Like in some other Asian countries, anti-Japanese sentiments still run deep in North Korea because of Japan’s wartime atrocities. The Korean Peninsula was under Japanese colonial rule from 1910-1945 before it was split into a capitalistic, U.S.-backed South Korea and a socialist, Soviet-supported North Korea at the end of the World War II in 1945.

North Korea’s state media routinely criticize Japanese colonial wrongdoing. Its statement Tuesday also said Japan inflicted “unmeasurable misery and pains on Korean people” during the colonial rule.

North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear-tipped missiles is a major security concern for Japan as they are capable of reaching Japan as well as South Korea and the mainland U.S. In October, North Korea fired an intermediate-range missile over Japan, forcing Tokyo to issue evacuation alerts and halt trains.

The Japanese strategy names China as “the biggest strategic challenge” — before North Korea and Russia — to Japan’s efforts to ensure peace, safety and stability.