North Korea still sees Japan as Enemy Number One

People in Japan, who are struggling through an intense heat wave, may take some relief from the fact that North Korea has not fired any missiles in their direction recently.

However, Japan is still being targeted by North Korea’s propaganda.

The Associated Press bureau in Pyongyang reports that state-run media is continuing with its “vitriolic” criticism of Japan.

Apparently it still blasts the Japanese for insisting that independent inspectors must verify the North’s claims of dismantling its missile launch sites and nuclear facilities.

The US-based monitoring group 38 North says that North Korea appears to have begun dismantling part of a rocket launch site in Sohae.

As usual, though, no outside inspectors have visited the location. Nor were any inspectors allowed to see another military site which was blown up before Mr Trump met the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in June.

Change of tone

The hostility shown towards Japan contrasts with North Korea’s new, softer tone towards the US and South Korea.

This week, I attended a meeting with the South Korean foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha claimed that the change of approach is very significant.

“We see this is a sign that the path is set for negotiations to proceed,” she told a briefing at the Chatham House think tank in London.

The minister also claimed that a “future partnership” between North and South Korea could turn the peninsula into “a bridge” between different regions of Asia, bringing many advantages.

She claimed that the “political context has changed” since the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore last month.

Minister Kyung-wha described the North Koreans as “very tough, smart negotiators” but emphasised that peace with the South presents a valuable economic opportunity for the North.

She said the South Korea and the United States have jointly agreed to suspend military exercises but stressed that the withdrawal of American forces from South Korea is not under discussion in negotiations with the North.

Common Goal

Asked about Japan, she said: “I am in frequent contact with Taro Kono, my Japanese counterpart. There are frequent trilateral meetings with the Chinese, too, up to the Prime Ministerial level and this frequent communication assures us that we move in the same direction.

“The message may be different but I think the ultimate commitment to our goal is one that we all very clearly share.”

And in another sign that the relationship between South Korea and Japan is in a good state, the South Korean government has donated 100 million yen to Japan in response to recent natural disasters.

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