Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe was flying back home from Gandhinagar two days ago when North Korea fired off its missile, which flew 3700 km before landing in the sea off Hokkaido in northern Japan.
A furious Abe said Japan would “never tolerate (such) dangerous provocation,” while South Korea fired off two missiles simulating an attack on North Korea. The UN Security Council, in a meeting on Friday evening in New York, used much the same language, calling it “highly provocative,” and exhorted all member countries to “fully, comprehensively and immediately” implement all UN sanctions on North Korea. The sanctions are supposed to hit 90 per cent of North Korean exports, the money from which it uses it finesse its nuclear-missile programme.
The North Korea crisis had already found resonance in the India-Japan statement in Gandhinagar on Thursday, “the importance of holding all parties accountable” being the key operative phrase.
It seems that Shinzo Abe had told visiting ex-Defence minister Arun Jaitley that he was convinced that North Korea’s missile technology had been obtained from Pakistan’s AQ Khan, who had stolen the designs from various western countries.
Jaitley was visiting Tokyo last week, his last trip as Defence minister, soon after the Cabinet reshuffle gave the job to his former protégé and BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman.
As the North Korean crisis hits home in Japan, its unintended fallout could push India and Japan much closer together. The bullet train project may have been the economic centerpiece of the Abe visit to India – with its extremely low 0.1 per cent rate of interest over 50 years, along with transfer of technology, the project will not only turn out to be practically free, as PM Modi said, but could help kickstart several ancillary industries around it — but the Pakistan angle in the North Korean missile crisis could further lock Delhi and Tokyo into a tighter embrace.
The importance of Japan understanding Pakistan’s AQ Khan as the “black-marketeer” of missile and nuclear proliferation to North Korea, besides Libya and Iran, means that the penny has finally dropped in Tokyo.
This story has a back story. In 2011, ‘Washington Post’ reported a letter written by a former North Korean letter and sent to AQ Khan in 1998, stating that then Pakistan army chief Gen. Jahangir Karamat had been paid $3 million and asking for “the agreed documents, components, etc” be placed on a North Korean plane returning to Pyongyang, after delivering missile parts to Pakistan.