EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: On August 29, 2017, North Korea launched a Hwasong-12 missile over Japan that landed in the Pacific Ocean – a show of force that once again illustrated Japan’s vulnerability to North Korea’s ballistic missiles. Tokyo should reconsider its newly conciliatory method of coping with the threat from Pyongyang. It will not be able to deter North Korea alone, and may have no choice but to be more active militarily.
Over the years, North Korea has launched dozens of short-range missiles. They have ranged from less than 1,000 km to the latest ICBMs, which had a range of almost 8,000 km. Some of North Korea’s missiles have landed close to the exclusive economic waters of Japan, while others – three since 1998 – flew above Japan and landed in the Pacific Ocean.
North Korea’s ballistic capabilities pose a security threat to Japanese security. Pyongyang has stated outright that Japanese and American bases in Japan are legitimate targets in case of war on the Korean Peninsula, or in retaliation for any limited strike on the DPRK.
For the time being, Tokyo does not face possible invasion by the DPRK. The more pressing issue is the ballistic missile threat.
Tokyo has several policy strategies it might consider with which to deal with this threat:
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