SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea threatened Tuesday to take a “resolute and decisive military step” against Japan while it slammed Tokyo’s adoption of a national security strategy as an attempt to turn the country into “an offensive military giant.”
The North’s statement came four days after Japan announced a security strategy that includes a counterstrike capability against enemy targets and doubles its military spending to gain a more offensive footing against threats from China and North Korea.
The North’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Japan’s push to acquire counterstrike capability has nothing to do with self-defense but is a clear attempt to acquire “preemptive attack capability meant to launch strikes on other countries’ territories.”
“Japan’s foolish attempt to satiate its black-hearted greed — the building up of its military invasion capability under the pretext of (North Korea’s) legitimate exercise of the right to self-defense — cannot be justified and tolerated,” an unidentified ministry spokesperson said in a statement carried by state media.
The statement accused the United States of supporting and instigating the Japanese military ambitions and undermining regional peace. It said that such U.S. moves are forcing North Korea to work hard to complete its plans to develop new strategic weapons to thwart enemy attempts to invade it.
The statement said North Korea wants to make sure it can take “a resolute and decisive military step” to protect its sovereignty and national interests in the wake of the complexity of regional security caused by the Japanese strategy.
“Our country will continue to take actions to show how much we are concerned and displeased with Japan’s unjust, greedy attempt to realize its wild ambitions,” the statement said.
Like in some other Asian countries, anti-Japanese sentiments still run deep in North Korea because of Japan’s wartime atrocities. The Korean Peninsula was under Japanese colonial rule from 1910-1945 before it was split into a capitalist, U.S.-backed South Korea and a socialist, Soviet-supported North Korea at the end of the World War II.
North Korea’s state media routinely criticize Japanese colonial past. Its statement Tuesday called Japan “a war criminal state which inflicted untold misfortune and sufferings upon the Korean people.”
North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear-tipped missiles is a major security concern for Japan, which sits in their range together with South Korea and the mainland U.S. In October, North Korea fired an intermediate-range missile over Japan, forcing Tokyo to issue evacuation alerts and halt trains.
On Tuesday, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno accused North Korea of posing “serious and pressing threats” to Japanese and regional security with its unprecedented pace of missile tests this year. He said Japan will cooperate with the United State and South Korea to achieve North Korea’s denuclearization.
The Japanese strategy names China as “the biggest strategic challenge” — before North Korea and Russia — to Tokyo’s efforts to ensure peace, safety and stability.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said last week that “hyping up the so-called China threat to find an excuse for (Japan’s) military buildup is doomed to fail.”
On Tuesday, South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lim Soosuk reiterated a government position that Seoul wants Tokyo to seek its consent if it plans to take any actions that affect South Korean national security, such as the use of preemptive strikes on the Korean Peninsula.
South Korea and Japan are both key U.S. allies and closely linked to each other economically and culturally. But they often squabble over issues stemming from Tokyo’s colonial occupation.
Associated Press writer Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.