With the recent threat of a North Korean nuclear attack on Guam, Japan’s new defense minister said Thursday that his country’s military could shoot down the missiles before they reach the U.S. territory.
In such a scenario, Japan has the right to activate its Aegis destroyer missile defense system, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said during a session of the National Diet, Japan’s parliament.
The defense minister said that any attack against Guam would be considered an existential threat to Japan. He also included the mutual defense agreement with the United States.
Japan is roughly 620 miles to the east of North Korea, which has conducted numerous missile tests this year. A majority of the missiles have landed in the Sea of Japan, which is located between Japan and the eastern coast of the massive Asian continent.
Guam is located about 1,600 miles south of Japan.
Onodera’s comments indicated what many have viewed as Japan’s growing interest in reviving its military. They are taking a more aggressive stance in the affairs of the Asia-Pacific region than it has since the end of World War II.
Onodera returned to the defense minister’s position just last week following a Cabinet reorganization by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzu Abe. Onodera had previously served in the job from 2012 to 2014.
In March, Onodera led a study that resulted in recommendations for boosting Japan’s missile response capability, the Australian reported. His department also recently issued a 532-page report on proposed defense initiatives, the news site said.
According to the Australian, Japan is looking to add upgraded ship-to-air interceptors in an effort double its current defense capabilities.
Meanwhile, Japanese cities have started to perform evacuation drills in preparation for a missile strike, and private sales of nuclear shelters have been booming, the Australian reported.
Gen. Kim Rak Gyom, North Korea’s commander of strategic rocket forces, spoke to state media Thursday and launched a number of insults at the U.S. president.
He said Trump is “extremely getting on the nerves” of American soldiers and has showed his “senility” again.
“Sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy bereft of reason who is going senile,” the commander said.