TOKYO — The Japanese government sees the threat from North Korea rising to a new level as the reclusive nation makes steady progress in its nuclear and missile development program, according to a draft of a white paper on defense for 2017.
In the 2016 edition, the Defense Ministry described Pyongyang’s military provocation as constituting “a serious and imminent threat.” It will use stronger wording in its 2017 report to be drawn up in early August.
The draft report says that the North’s ballistic missile development has four characteristics: longer ranges, growing sophistication for a so-called saturation attack, pursuit of secrecy, and a wider variety of launch forms.
A ballistic missile that North Korea launched in May reached an altitude of more than 2,000km. It was fired on a lofted trajectory, making interception more difficult than if flown on a standard trajectory, which would give the missile a longer reach than the actual 800km, the report maintains.
On China, the report noted that the nation’s defense budget has grown roughly threefold in a decade. With Chinese military ships spotted passing between the Japanese islands of Okinawa and Miyako, such instances of vessels sailing toward the Pacific Ocean will become more frequent, Tokyo predicted.
As for the U.S. government under President Donald Trump, the report noted that the administration places importance on security in the Asia-Pacific region.