Japan’s new Defense Minister Tomomi Inada has criticized North Korea
over their military activities in the region.
Inada, a close confidante of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with staunchly nationalist views, made the remark as she reviewed troops on her first day in the job.
She stressed that Pyongyang “is repeating militarily provocative acts such as nuclear testing and a series of ballistic missile launches.”
On Wednesday, North Korea launched two intermediate-range missiles.
One of the projectiles reportedly exploded shortly after takeoff and the second landed in the Sea of Japan some 250 kilometers (155 miles) off the country’s northern coast.
Tensions have been flaring in the region since January, when North Korea said it had successfully detonated a hydrogen bomb, its fourth nuclear test, and vowed to build up its nuclear program as deterrence against potential aggression from the US and its regional allies.
A month later, Pyongyang launched a long-range rocket, which it said placed an earth observation satellite into orbit. However, Washington and Seoul denounced it as a cover for an intercontinental ballistic missile test.
North Korea says it will not give up on its nuclear deterrence unless Washington ends its hostile policy toward Pyongyang and dissolves the US-led UN command in South Korea. There are around 3,000 US troops permanently stationed in South Korea.
This undated photo released by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on July 21, 2016 shows a missile fired during a drill by Hwasong artillery units of North Korean army’s strategic force. (AFP photo)
Elsewhere in her remarks, Inada, previously the ruling party policy chief, also accused China of looking to change the status quo through the use of force in the disputed seas.
“China has rapidly become active in waters and airspace surrounding (Japan) and it continues its attempt to change the status quo through force.”
Earlier this week, Tokyo strongly criticized Beijing, waning that China’s aggressive stance in territorial disputes risks sparking unintended conflict.
Tokyo and Beijing are embroiled in a long-running territorial dispute over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.
Tensions grew between the two sides after Tokyo nationalized part of the resource-rich islands in 2012.
Beijing also claims almost all of the South China Sea, which is also claimed in part by Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines. The contested waters are believed to be rich in oil and gas.
Japan has no claims in the South China Sea, but has expressed worries about Beijing’s influence in the region, through which USD 5 trillion in trade passes every year, much of it to and from Japanese ports.