The United States and South Korea are starting their annual summer military exercises on August 21, and North Korea is once again taking a stance of intimidation in opposition to the exercises. “North Korea to Forcefully Oppose American-South Korean Exercises: Threatening to Fire Missiles Near Guam,” a Jiji Press article from August 10, read as follows:
Based on this, the Nikkei Stock Average closing price fell from 19,729 yen on August 10 to 19,537 yen on August 14 at the start of the week, a nearly 200-yen decrease.
The U.S. is displaying strong opposition to these words and actions by North Korea, as described in the top article on the front page of the Sankei Shimbun newspaper on August 12 and 13. The August 12 article was headlined, “Trump Says Solutions are ‘Fully in Place’ Against North Korea: Hints at Retaliation for Striking Guam Including a Preemptive Strike.” It read:
Trump was staying in New Jersey on August 10, when he told the press corps, “If he does something in Guam, it will be an event the likes of which nobody has seen before, what will happen in North Korea.” He also said, “No, that’s not a dare, as you say. That is a statement of fact.”
Regarding the possibility of a preemptive strike on North Korea, he hinted, “Well, you’ll see, you’ll see.”
The August 13 article was entitled, “American-Chinese Phone Call: Presidents Agree on Asking North Korea to Stop its Provocative Behavior.” It read:
The state-run China Central Television said that Xi is encouraging a political resolution to the North Korea issue, and once again emphasized that he is against the use of military force. He stated that involved nations must have self-restraint and avoid speaking or acting in ways to intensify tension on the Korean Peninsula. He also asked the U.S. to respond calmly. Trump stated to reporters in New Jersey on August 11 before the telephone call that the situation is very dangerous. He expressed his hope for a diplomatic resolution, saying that he wants a peaceful solution for amicable reconciliation rather than a bad solution.
Two years ago, North Korea launched a short-range Scud-C ballistic missile towards the Sea of Japan at the time of the military exercise. It fired Pukkuksong-1, a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), during the exercises last year. This year the military is putting together a plan for firing four Hwasong-12 IRBMs to the international waters around 30 to 40 kilometers from Guam. The military said it would report this plan to Kim Jong Un and wait for his decision. Trump’s response to North Korea’s annual remonstrance can be described as excessive and also totally unlike past presidents. The media is also thrown into an uproar, making it seem like North Korea is going to strike Guam with a ballistic missile and that war is imminent. The Japanese news reports copy the American media, and ignorant commentators are constantly making asinine statements on TV. However, Trump continues alternately taking a hard and soft line. He is saying things like “If he does something in Guam, it will be an event the likes of which nobody has seen before, what will happen in North Korea” and “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen,” while also saying he would “always consider negotiations” with North Korea and that he wants a “peaceful solution.” The North Korean military merely reported to Kim Jong Un its plans to shoot a long-range ballistic missile into the international waters off Guam. With his series of statements, Trump is trying to draw major attention to this issue and distract from the allegations he is facing about Russiagate. I suspect Kim Jong Un is the person who is most astounded by Trump’s response.
Since his inauguration, Trump has been making great efforts to keep his campaign promises. Most of these promises have yet to be fulfilled, such as the failed Obamacare repeal bills, so he has to show his core supporters that he is trying despite his lack of success. Trump originally made reckless statements advocating for extreme policies to earn media coverage, gain popularity, and win the election, which is how he became president. Championing an “America First” policy, he has suggested that the U.S. will withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which is disadvantageous to American manufacturing, and has restrained car manufacturers from moving their plants to Mexico. He also asserted that he would build a wall on the border with Mexico to keep out illegal immigrants and stop them from stealing American jobs. Trump doesn’t see the reality that, as fewer people of all races are working in the American agricultural industry, its agriculture will fall apart without illegal immigrants. Similarly, during his campaign he asserted that the U.S. would withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Paris Agreement (within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), and he executed these changes right after his inauguration. It is true that many people feel a sense of unfairness; not everyone agrees that greenhouse gases are the cause of climate change, and some countries are being compelled to spend huge amounts of money on carbon emission trading. Because Trump won the election thanks to his statements answering these honest doubts held by many, now he must work to keep his promises in order to win re-election. “Russiagate” refers to suspicions that Trump and members of his team had close relations with Russia during and directly after the election. Trump has repeatedly and forcefully denied these allegations. He is creating an uproar and inflaming the media about North Korea’s threat to fire an IRBM near Guam as a way to distract from the Russiagate issue.
Along with the extreme response by Trump, the Japanese Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) moved PAC-3 missiles to four prefectures in the Chugoku and Shikoku areas in the announced flight courses of the North Korean ballistic missiles. Yet if the missiles were launched according to plan, they would reach heights over Japan at which they could not be shot down by PAC-3s. Some people are saying this was to prepare for unsuccessful launches, but shooting at a ballistic missile off its flight course would merely break it up into more fragments and amplify the damage. No matter how many interceptor missiles Japan has, nothing could be done if North Korea launched four or five missiles at the same time. Rather than using Japan’s precious military budget to buy American interceptor missiles, it would be vastly cheaper to reform the constitution and have offensive missiles for deterrence.
The media makes a great fuss due to the American influence, so the government, Ministry of Defense, and JSDF probably decided to deploy these PAC-3s in Chugoku and Shikoku because they had to do something. This was mostly pointless. An SM-3 from an Aegis ship would be more effective if Japan seriously wanted to intercept North Korean ballistic missiles, but these fundamentally cannot handle long-range ballistic missiles. The American Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system successfully shot down an ICBM in testing but it has yet to be deployed in actual fighting. In any case, North Korea does not truly intend to strike Guam, but is merely making its customary protest against the military exercise. I think North Korea will probably change the direction for the four missiles it plans to launch, switching to a target that is roughly the same distance from North Korea as Guam to show off its capabilities. Still, it is horrible how the media stirs up anxiety. Newspapers must sell copies and TV programs must fight for ratings, which is why the commercial media exploits these feelings of fear.
The U.S., China, South Korea, and North Korea have built high-rise cities and are improving their infrastructure. Because the damage to all participants would be so great, no country can embark on a war like the Korean War almost 70 years ago and World War II even farther in the past. Also, North Korea serves as a vital geopolitical buffer zone for all these nations. If you only read or watch the news, it seems like North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missiles are only to intimidate Japan, South Korea, and the U.S., but they are actually defensive weapons to guard against a Chinese invasion. One theory says that Jiang Zemin (then-chairman of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Military Commission) was behind the large-scale terrorist attack at North Korea’s Ryongchon Station on April 22, 2004, when an entire train was blown up, and that Zemin instigated some members of the North Korean military to assassinate Kim Jong Il.
China summoned Kim Jong Il to Beijing and pressured him to cease nuclear development, but he firmly refused. To assassinate Kim Jong Il on his way home to Pyongyang, 800 tons of high explosives were buried deeply in a tunnel dug under the branch line along the main line at Ryongchon Station. It is thought that a Russian or American intelligence agency likely learned of this plan and leaked information about it, so Kim Jong Il was replaced with a dummy and escaped danger. With a greatly heightened sense of wariness regarding China, Kim Jong Il stepped up nuclear development and conducted a successful nuclear test in 2006, although it was not perfect. Kim Jong Un learned of these things from his father and inherited this wariness, so when he gained power he moved away from China by purging Jang Song Thaek (his uncle who had ties with China) and killing his half-brother Kim Jong Nam (a potential successor) with VX nerve gas in Malaysia.
North Korea has conducted multiple missile tests this year but has not conducted a nuclear weapons test since September 2016, almost one year ago, because China is powerfully restraining North Korea’s development of miniaturized nuclear bombs. North Korea is still an essential buffer zone for the U.S. and China alike. If the Kim Jong Un administration crumbled and China set up a puppet government, China would be in direct confrontation with the U.S. and South Korea at the Military Demarcation Line, which would be extremely dangerous for the U.S. On the other hand, if the Kim Jong Un government fell with guidance from the U.S., then South Korea under the American influence would advance to the North Korean border with China, which would be risky for China. Taking this into consideration, even if the U.S. recognizes North Korea’s possession of nuclear arms, its true desire is to maintain the current administration – although it is inconvenient – and make North Korea halt its testing of ICBMs and miniaturized nuclear bombs that can be mounted on them to threaten the American mainland. Even if it can do nothing about North Korea’s current ballistic missiles that can reach the Chinese mainland, China’s intent is to adamantly block North Korea from successfully developing smaller nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles equipped with several warheads like the multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs) possessed by the U.S., Russia, China, England, and France. China has not yet halted oil exports to North Korea and is maintaining them as the ace up its sleeve, threatening to cut off oil if North Korea conducts further nuclear bomb tests or develops miniaturized nuclear weapons and multiple-warhead missiles. This is why there have been no recent nuclear weapons tests in North Korea. Still, North Korea already has IRBMs and nuclear warheads and all of the pro-China leaders from the Kim Jong Il era have been ousted. Russia’s shadow can be seen in the background to North Korea’s obstinate attitude of not yielding to China, since it can depend on Russia even if Chinese oil was cut off.
Japan felt excessive fear about oil running out at the time of World War II, which is why it made the foolish choice of quickly opening hostilities with the U.S. without determining a vision for ending the war. In setting out on the Pacific Ocean to battle the U.S., Japan should have changed its diplomatic and navy codes before the war and started with a unified army/navy strategy. Instead of annihilating all of the vessels in Pearl Harbor, it should have landed soldiers on Hawaii; occupied it; and gained control of its oil stores, docks, and the port facilities. Next it should have destroyed the Panama Canal so the U.S. Pacific Fleet was blocked out of the Pacific Ocean and obtained oil from other locations such as Indonesia. In reality, the U.S. had already deciphered Japan’s diplomatic and navy codes. It moved aircraft carriers and new warships out of Pearl Harbor to limit the damage of the Japanese attack. At the same time, even though it was a Sunday the U.S. for some reason purposefully stationed more than the regular capacity of soldiers on the decrepit USS Arizona, which was positioned to be a Japanese target. It is said that the USS Arizona’s powder magazine exploded six minutes after the fierce aerial bombing by the Japanese Army, and that this explosion was started by a fire. However, I have never heard of any other examples of a secondary explosion at a powder magazine caused by fire. A total of 1,177 people lost their lives in this sudden, huge explosion – roughly half the number of the American deaths in the attack (2,400). Some people suspect that the U.S. purposefully blew up its own ship to inflame the citizens’ fighting spirit and enter the war with the slogan “Remember Pearl Harbor,” just like when it used the slogan “Remember the Maine” after blowing up its USS Maine to start the Spanish-American War. Japan was also defeated in the Battle of Midway afterwards because its codes had been deciphered, and it seemed ever more likely that it would lose the war as well.
Even if the American-North Korean relationship grows so complicated that war breaks out, I think that North Korea would be defeated in an instant. China would not provide backup to North Korea in that event, but even if it did it could only oppose the U.S. with nuclear force. With the current Chinese naval and air powers, the navy and air force would fall to the U.S. in the blink of an eye, and China would not stand a chance. Considering this, there is almost no chance of war breaking out. Behind the scenes of the U.S. government, we can get a sense that it would recognize North Korea as a nuclear state as long as the U.S. can stop North Korea from developing ICBMs with nuclear warheads that can strike the American mainland. What should Japan do in that case? I believe we must seriously consider being able to defend the country to become a genuinely independent nation. Japan – the only country that has been the victim of nuclear bombings – is surrounded by the nuclear powers of the U.S., Russia, China, and North Korea. What should we do to prevent a third nuclear attack? If the U.S. will not allow Japan to have nuclear arms, I think that Japan should enter into a nuclear sharing arrangement like that between the U.S. and four North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries. Trump is in opposition to the expanding China and also wants to achieve his America First policy, so it is highly likely that he would approve nuclear sharing to allow Japan to do its part to maintain a balance of power in East Asia. The U.S. is a massive military power accounting for nearly half of the world’s military spending, but to stand off against the growing China it will be important for Japan to not depend on the U.S. alone through the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. I think Japan will also have to check China’s reckless actions by building good relationships with other countries that are hostile to China, such as Russia, India, and Vietnam. The world is ruled by the logic of power. Japan should first introduce nuclear sharing, but advanced Japanese sciences and technologies should also be utilized to start developing railguns and other “post-nuclear weapons” – as well as next-generation bombs – as an offset strategy. If Japan can develop original weapons while also cooperating with the U.S., I believe it can make great contributions to East Asian prosperity and peace. I certainly want the constitution to be revised by 2020 to achieve these policies. This is a critical moment, so I keenly hope that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will regulate the masochistic media, boost his approval rating, win next year’s presidential election to serve three terms totaling nine years, and push forward with constitutional reform.
August 18 (Friday), 2017 6:00 p.m.