N.Korea threat deepens US-Japan alliance


Japan and the United States have reaffirmed their close alliance in the face of threats from North Korea.

There was extensive coverage in the world’s media of the trip by the

US Vice President Mike Pence to South Korea and Japan this week, during which he pledged “100 percent support” for both nations.

As he visited the US Navy’s Atsugi base in Ayase southwest of Tokyo, Mr Pence said: “We appreciate the challenging times in which the people of Japan live, with increasing provocations from across the Sea of Japan.”

In South Korea, Vice President Pence said that the era of America’s strategic patience with North Korea was over.

The belligerent rhetoric between North Korea and the United States dominated headlines worldwide. There were many frightening stories about how the countries are on the brink of war

This alarming tone was in contrast to the jokey approach which is sometimes taken by the western press when they cover North Korea – a tone which the Japanese find quite un-amusing.

In the Japanese media, the threat of North Korea is taken seriously. That was especially true this week after Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that he believes the North Koreans have the capacity to attach biological weapons on their missiles.

Donald Trump’s rhetoric and behaviour divides opinion in Japan, just as it does in the United States and the rest of the world. For the sake of simple reporting, though, the international media usually use the words and actions of Mr Abe and his foreign minister, Taro Aso to gauge the state of Japan’s relations with America and other nations.

The BBC’s Tokyo correspondent, Rupert Wingfield-Hayes says the Japanese leaders give a “cautious welcome” to Mr Trump’s approach.

That may seem surprising, given Mr Abe’s previous warm relationship with President Obama, which led to many break-throughs on trade and diplomacy. Yet Rupert Wingfield-Hayes says that there was no progress on North Korea while Mr Obama was president. In fact, the situation became more dangerous.

The media will now be watching closely for the response to the North Korean situation from China. The US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said America is working closely with the Chinese towards a nuclear free Korean peninsula.

Vice President Mike Pence is also keeping the door open to China. When questioned by reporters, he said he hoped a diplomatic solution could be found.

One significant step would be for China to cut off oil supplies to North Korea, leaving the heavily-sanctioned country in an even more isolated position.