Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said Thursday that if North Korea fires missiles near the US territory of Guam where the United States has military bases, the action could constitute a "survival-threatening situation" enabling Japan to exercise its right of collective self-defense.
Although Guam hosts two United States military installations and 6,000 U.S. soldiers, making it the target of North Korea's wrath, tourism authorities are keen to dispel any impression of danger to the tranquil island and its secluded beaches.
That prompted North Korea to warn Wednesday it was reviewing plans to strike Guam with a ballistic missile in the wake of President Trump's threat to respond to provocative actions by the North with "fire and fury".
NATO spokesman Dylan White would not speculate on the possibility, but said the alliance is "concerned" by North Korea's "pattern of inflammatory and threatening rhetoric".
Guam is home to two military bases housing more than 6,000 Americans. Former U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger has already proposed pulling American troops out of South Korea if that would persuade China to get North Korea to scrap its nuclear weapons.
The possibility of a nuclear confrontation is considered remote, but worldwide alarm has been escalating in recent days.
The commentary came after Washington warned North Korea this week it faced "fire and fury like the world has never seen" if it continued to threaten the United States with its missile and nuclear programmes. Their location in a USA territory means its military is just hours from potential flashpoints in the western Pacific.
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Guam was claimed by Spain in 1565 and became a US territory in 1898 during the Spanish-American War. In World War II, Guam was seized by the Japanese shortly after the Pearl Harbor attacks and won back by the U.S.in 1944.
The North Korean threat is not expected to slow the robust visitor arrivals from South Korea. "No I don't foresee that", he said. Other countries have fallen for North Korea's distinctive tactic of brinkmanship so often now that they can all see through the North's schemes. The 163,000 residents that make up Guam's population, which includes 6,000 USA service members, are considered US citizens.
Bombers "deployed from Guam frequently come flying in the skies over South Korea and explicitly carry out drills for actual war", Pyongyang said in its recent statement, calling Guam "the United States' outpost and starting base for invasion". It has limited self-government, with a popularly elected governor, small legislature, and non-voting delegate in the U.S. House of Representatives.
He concluded, "May God bless the people of Guam, and may God bless America".
The South Korean government may be looking to acquire nuclear-powered submarines, a possible response to North Korea's development of submarine-launched ballistic missiles. The U.S. District Court of Guam legalized it in 2015, before 14 states.
But GVB says Guam's top market, Japan, continues to slide, dropping by 5.2% compared to a year ago.
A willingness to shoot down the missile was a politically important move in the relationship between the two allies, Mr Gatling said, adding that Japan might be better placed to provide data to help the U.S. track the missile.