North Korea continues to be a “serious and imminent threat,” Japan stated on Tuesday in its first annual defense review since tensions eased on the Korean Peninsula, The Guardian reported.
Japan’s 2018 defense white paper also took aim at China’s rise as a military power, saying Beijing was sparking “strong security concerns in the region and international community, including Japan.”
In response, China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said: “It is extremely irresponsible [for Japan] to accuse China’s normal national defense construction and military activities. Japan should not seek various excuses for its expansion of armaments. There is no change in our basic recognition concerning the threat of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missiles.”
Pyongyang continues to post “an unprecedentedly serious and imminent threat to Japan’s security and [to] significantly damage the peace and security of the region and the international community,” according to Tokyo.
Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera acknowledged in the document that North Korea had begun a dialogue with former foes South Korea and the US.
“But we cannot overlook the fact that, even to this day, it possesses and fully deploys several hundred missiles that put nearly all of Japan within range,” stressed the minister.
In response, Japan is steadily upgrading its capacity to shield the nation from the North’s arsenal, including a plan to spend some US$4.2 billion over the next three decades on installing and operating US radar systems.
The defense ministry is expected later this week to request a record 5.3 trillion yen (US$47.6 billion) for the budget for the financial year starting from April.
Despite the historic handshake in Singapore, there has been little progress in denuclearising the Korean Peninsula and Washington-Pyongyang relations appear to have taken a turn for the worse, with Trump abruptly scrapping a planned visit to the North by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, during the Pentagon briefing on Tuesday, stated that future military exercises with South Korea will go on as usual.
“We have no plans at this time to suspend any more exercises,” he said.
The White House had earlier decided to suspend some exercises as a gesture of goodwill during nuclear negotiations with North Korea.