On Thursday, Itsunori Onodera, the new defense minister of the island nation of Japan, stated his country would act by shooting down any missiles fired by the North Koreans toward Guam. Onodera asserted his nation’s right to use the Aegis destroyer missile defense system during such a scenario as a missile launch would also pose a threat to his country.
As reported by Fox News, Japan has a mutual defense agreement with the United States, and Guam is a US territory. In a situation where North Korea fired a missile at Guam, Onodera stated during a National Diet session that the activation of the Aegis destroyer missile defense system was within their rights.
Onodera also said any such attack on Guam would qualify as an existential threat to Japan, further supporting the decision to take action.
North Korea has conducted multiple weapons tests this year. While most of the missiles landed in the Sea of Japan, the potential one could impact Japan, which is only around 620 miles away from North Korea, is a consideration.
Guam, another island nation, is approximately 1,600 miles south of Japan, and North Korea stated the country was “carefully examining” the possibility of firing missiles towards Guam.
Japan’s previous stance was only to shoot down North Korean missiles directed at their country. However, a new policy that was enacted last year gives Japan the ability to defend allies and US territories from such an attack.
The statements made by Onodera potentially reflect Japan’s intention to establish itself as a military presence in the region as well as taking a more aggressive position in regards to activities in the Asia-Pacific zone.
Onodera assumed the position of defense minister last week, though he previously held the job from 2012 to 2014. He also led a study designed to create recommendations for increasing Japan’s defensive capabilities, specifically in regards to missile response.
Based on a report by the Australian, Japan is considering upgrades to its ship-to-air defense systems in an effort to double their current capabilities.
Japan has also increased other activities related to a potential missile act, including cities staging evacuation drills. Private sales of nuclear shelters have also increased significantly.