In an interview with the Financial Times (paywall), Itsunori Onodera, the Japanese Minister of Defense, said the country would only shoot down missile tests from North Korea if they presented a threat to Japanese territory.
An official has said the U.S. has considered shooting down North Korean missiles — even if they don’t threaten U.S. territory or that of its neighbors — if the Pentagon deems it an “inherent threat.”
In the last several weeks, North Korea has fired a missile over Japan and threatened to ‘sink’ the country in response to its support for sanctions in response to its recent nuclear tests. The country’s officials have also threatened to reduce the U.S. to “ashes and darkness” among other threats, which has led President Trump to make a series of threats of military retaliation, many of them on Twitter.
Onodera, the Japanese defense official, said that shooting down a missile could be seen as an act of war and added that Japan would be ready to do so if a missile were targeted at an ally. Despite his conservative position on countering missile tests, the Minister of Defense said he supported Trump’s “strong language” against North Korea, including referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “Rocket Man” in his address to the United Nations.
Though the North Korean nuclear program has existed for some time, the recent escalation in tensions involving not only the U.S. and Japan, but also Russia, China, and other members of the international community has led some to compare the atmosphere to the Cuban Missile Crisis.