TOKYO — North Korea’s launching of what Japan has identified as ballistic missiles is a clear violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions and is “extremely regrettable,” Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya said Friday.
“Based on our comprehensive analysis of the information, the government believes the projectiles launched by North Korea on Thursday were short-range ballistic missiles,” Iwaya told reporters, hours after the U.S. Defense Department made the same assessment.
“The launch clearly violates U.N. Security Council resolutions and is extremely regrettable,” Iwaya added.
Japan sought to analyze what is behind North Korea’s second projectile launch in a week, working closely with its security ally the United States and South Korea.
Japanese officials said for now the latest tests will not impede Tokyo’s efforts to explore holding a summit “without conditions” between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“North Korea is trying to drive a wedge between Japan, the United States and South Korea. There is no doubt about it,” a senior Japanese diplomat said.
The diplomat said Japan will wait to see how the Security Council will respond as North Korea is prohibited from carrying out ballistic missile tests under the U.N. resolutions.
North Korea fired two short-range missiles eastward from its northeastern region of Kusong around 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.
U.S. President Donald Trump, who has met with Kim twice, said “Nobody’s happy” about the latest development, which analysts see as a sign of Pyongyang’s mounting frustration with Washington.
Diplomatic sources have said that the projectiles North Korea fired last Saturday also included a ballistic missile but the U.S. government withheld the assessment from the public for fear of hampering U.S.-North Korea denuclearization talks.
Abe, for his part, has articulated his resolve to realize his first meeting with Kim “without conditions,” a shift from his previous stance that a guarantee of progress on the long-standing issue of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s is a requisite for any summit.
“The prime minister has a very strong determination to act boldly without missing any opportunity available and resolve the issue,” Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasutoshi Nishimura said at a press conference Friday. “It’s an issue that Japan needs to tackle proactively.”