TOKYO, Japan # Japan has warned it would attack North Korea if it had evidence Pyongyang was preparing to launch ballistic missiles, Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba has said.
Ishiba’s statement is expected to send shockwaves across East Asia, and marks a dramatic escalation in the crisis over North Korea’s nuclear program.
“It is too late if [a missile] flies towards Japan,” Ishiba told Reuters in an interview on Thursday.
“Our nation will use military force as a self-defense measure if [North Korea] started to resort to arms against Japan,” he said, adding that Japan could regard the process of injecting fuel into a missile as the start of military attack. (Japan stance shocks Asia)
Japan has become increasingly worried about any missile threat posed to it from North Korea. In the past week it has been warned the North may up the ante in the crisis by resuming testing of missiles that could be sent over Japan.
Tokyo has called on North Korea to reopen dialogue with the U.N. nuclear watchdog, a move that would push it towards a “rapid and verifiable dismantling of its nuclear weapons program,” a foreign ministry statement said.