WASHINGTON D.C. – North Korea today warned that Japan would “not be exempt” from a pre-emptive nuclear strike, following announcements by the U.S. government that it was expanding its own missile defense systems in the region.
An article in the official North Korean Workers’ Party newspaper the Rodong denounced Japanese calls for “independent additional sanctions” following Pyongyang’s third nuclear test in February. Japan, the article argued, is using the nuclear test as an excuse to increase its military presence in the region.
“It is a fatal mistake for Japan to think it is safe when a war breaks out on the Korean Peninsula,” the article warned. “North Korea exercise[s] the right to a preemptive nuclear attack to destroy the strongholds of the aggressors,” the article said, claiming that Japan is included in that “stronghold.”
North Korean propaganda has been particularly venomous over the last week, with threats of preemptive strikes and a “war-like readiness” becoming an almost daily occurrence.
“The revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK are waiting for a final order, getting themselves fully ready to deluge the enemies with a shower of bullets so that they can not survive, if they provoke it,” the KCNA said in an article this morning.
The rhetoric coincides with an announcement by U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel that new missile defense measures would be introduced to combat improved North Korean capabilities.
“The United States has missile defense systems in place to protect us from limited ICBM attacks,” Hagel said. “[But] North Korea in particular has recently made advances in capabilities and has engaged in a series of irresponsible and reckless provocations.”
On top of deploying additional missile interceptors at Fort Greely, Alaska, Hagel announced the deployment of additional radar stations in Japan that would “provide improved early warning and tracking of any missile launched from North Korea at the United States or Japan.”
The number of long-range missile interceptors is to increase from 3o to 44 by 2017. There are currently 26 missile interceptors in Fort Greely, and another four in California’s Vandenberg Air Force base.
Hagel also announced the effective cancellation of a controversial missile defense program in Europe that had been fiercely opposed by Russia. “By shifting resources from this lagging program to fund the additional GBIs…we will be able to add protection against missiles from Iran sooner while also providing additional protection against the North Korean threat.”
While Russia, which voted for additional UN sanctions against North Korea earlier this month, has not given an official response, analysts believe it could lead to a breakthrough in deteriorating relations between Moscow and Washington D.C.