Japanese react furiously to North Korean missile launch | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 30.08.2017
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Japanese react furiously to North Korean missile launch

The UN Security Council has denounced North Korea's launch of a ballistic missile over Japan. But with no further sanctions in sight, many Japanese are still looking for answers. Julian Ryall reports from Tokyo.

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Japan takes cover as N. Korean missile flies overhead

The United Nations Security Council unanimously condemned Pyongyang's latest missile test on Tuesday, after the Japanese government called for an emergency meeting to seek a more exacting punishment on North Korean regime.

The US-drafted statement, agreed to as well by China and Russia, said the launches are "deliberately undermining regional peace and stability and have caused grave security concerns around the world."

However, the statement will not immediately lead to new or stricter sanctions against North Korea.

Read more: What is China's role in the North Korean crisis?

North Korea said Wednesday that leader Kim Jong Un was present for a test flight of the Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile that flew over Japan on Tuesday morning. The North recently threatened to fire the same type of missile into the waters near the US Pacific territory of Guam.

Pyongyang's official KCNA news agency quoted Kim as saying there would be "more ballistic rocket launching drills with the Pacific as a target in the future."

Following the emergency meeting, Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, said it was time for Pyongyang to recognize the "danger they are putting themselves in." 

US President Donald Trump said earlier that the launch would only serve to isolate North Korea, and said "all options are on the table" when it came to dealing with the regime.

Timeline of missile tests

Ordinary Japanese feel threatened

Political leaders in Japan were ready to welcome any move to make Pyongyang more accountable for actions that they say no other nation would tolerate.

The government's anger is shared by the Japanese public, with ordinary citizens insisting that the regime of Kim Jong Un has shown time and again that it cannot be trusted to behave reasonably and that more drastic measures are now called for.

"By the time I saw the alert on my mobile phone it was clear that it had already gone over Hokkaido, but what would have happened if it had disintegrated over the land instead of over the ocean?" Makoto Watanabe, an associate professor at Hokkaido Bunkyo University, told DW.

"And now that they have done this once, what is to stop them doing it again? In my mind, Japan and the rest of the international community have to be much firmer from now on," he added.

Read more: North Korea: From war to nuclear weapons

Issei Izawa, a university student, said Kim Jong Un is attempting to take advantage of Trump's domestic problems, and remains convinced that China would not approve the overthrow of his regime because it could lead to a reunified Korea allied with the US. All of which leaves the North Korean leader in a relatively strong position.

"But this cannot go on," Izawa said. "There have been five nuclear tests so far and there are reports that they are planning another one. And now the missiles are flying directly over Japan."

"No other country would tolerate that and it is unreasonable for North Korea to do so," added Izawa. "The international community really needs to come together to put new sanctions into place and to make sure that they have the effect of making Kim see sense at last."

Drastic solutions?

Others, however, are proposing more drastic solutions, in part because they sense a gradual acceptance in the US administration of North Korea as a nuclear power.

"Conservatives in Japan are worried about those in the US who are proponents of an appeasement policy towards the North," Ken Kato, director of the Tokyo-based Human Rights in Asia and a member of the International Coalition to Stop Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea, told DW.

Former director of US National Intelligence James Clapper, for example, said in an address to the Council on Foreign Relations last year that "the notion of getting the North Koreans to denuclearize is probably a lost cause. They are not going to do that. It is their ticket to survival."

Read more: Eyeing North Korea, US and Japan to boost military ties

Similarly, in an interview with The New York Times, former US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said, "History shows that we can, if we must, tolerate nuclear weapons in North Korea in the same way we tolerated the far greater threat of thousands of Soviet nuclear weapons during the Cold War."

Kato disagreed with these assertions and said the North Korean regime is known for its belligerence rather than willingness for appeasement.

"These appeasers ignore the fact that North Korea has not in the past, and will not in the future, keep the promises that it makes," Kato said. "And that means that people like me living in Tokyo could be killed when North Korea perfects a hydrogen bomb in a few years' time. And it will be the same for people living in Los Angeles and other major cities in the US."

As a consequence, Kato believes that more and more people in Japan are reaching the conclusion that "we need our own nuclear weapons to protect ourselves. And if the US capitulates to North Korea, then I think that they will be a majority."

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