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View more articles by Colin Zwirko
Colin Zwirko is an NK News correspondent based in Seoul.
North Korea’s latest missile launch last week is part of a pattern of frequent testing this year that poses a “serious challenge” to Japan and the international community, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Abe Shinzo said in a press briefing Monday.
Noting the DPRK has launched “over 20 missiles” in 2019 alone, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide stated that the tests “also violate the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council,” reiterating Japan’s longstanding position on the matter.
“Japan will continue to cooperate closely with the United States to gather and analyze information, and also we will stay vigilant at an utmost level in order to ensure our peace and security,” Suga added.
Prime Minister Abe himself made similar comments regarding the challenge posed by the test and intentions to work with the U.S. following news of the launch on Thursday evening.
Last week’s test was the 13th confirmed missile test event this year, comprising launches of at least 25 separate missiles, according to the NK Pro Missile Tracker.
When asked to respond to an article published by North Korean state media over the weekend attacking Prime Minister Abe and appearing to threaten Japan with a missile strike, Suga said on Monday he was “aware of that statement, but I’m not going to comment on each of those statements.”
The statement, made by a vice director general of the Department of Japanese Affairs of the DPRK foreign ministry, was not unusual coming from the North despite its insults towards Abe, though it invited more scrutiny than usual due to the apparent threat.
Its primary purpose appeared to be to urge Abe and other Japanese officials to “distinguish multiple launch rocket from a ballistic missile” and refrain from claiming last Thursday’s test as a “ballistic missile launch.”
“Abe may see what a real ballistic missile is in the not distant future and under his nose,” a line towards the end of the statement read. “Abe is none other than a perfect imbecile and a political dwarf without parallel in the world,” it added.
Asked Monday if Japan has detected any signs of any such missile launch alluded to in the North Korean statement, Suga reiterated Tokyo’s plans to “stay on high alert.”
Saturday’s DPRK statement follows another published in early November that also insulted Abe for “making [a] fuss” over the North’s recent Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) tests, saying the tests do not warrant calls for sanctions as they are merely “self-defensive.”
The Japanese Prime Minister was also lambasted in that statement for continuing to call for a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Abe has not appeared to publicly repeat his request for a summit with Kim since an early October policy speech where he offered to meet “with no preconditions, to resolve the all-important abduction issue.”
He began to make the offer of a summit without preconditions in May this year, while working to set up a summit with Kim as early as spring 2018 after the North’s participation in the Winter Olympics in South Korea.
But Abe and Japan’s stance has throughout the period of overtures continued to both promote the issue of North Korea’s abduction of Japanese citizens in the 1970s-80s and to condemn the DPRK’s spate of weapons tests this year as violations of UNSC resolutions.
In another possible shift in Tokyo’s desire to create an environment conducive to winning a summit with Kim Jong Un, the Japanese foreign ministry last week published its first report on North Korea’s sanctions-busting ship-to-ship transfers since June.
Further activities in Japan this week are also likely to draw the ire of North Korea, as UN Special Rapporteur on North Korean human rights Tomás Ojea Quintana is set to address the abductees issue in a visit to Japan from December 2-4.
Quintana will meet government officials, members of parliament, and the families of abducted Japanese citizens “to discuss what steps can be taken to improve the human rights situation in North Korea, particularly in the context of ongoing diplomatic talks,” according to Yonhap News Agency.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: KCTV