Until recently, I considered being in Tokyo a sideline seat to the North Korea nuclear crisis. After all, I rationalized, why would Kim Jong-un waste precious nuclear bombs on a symbolic target like Tokyo? Between the American and the South Korean militaries, weren’t there enough concerns on the Korean peninsula without having to look for targets further afield? And if the North Korean military command did turn their attention offshore, wouldn’t Guam be the most likely target (no offense to the Guamanians)?
Then, however, I learned a few things.
First, there are 50,000 American forces members in Japan, well within strike range of Pyongyang and thus of interest to the DPRK military leadership.
Second, America has some significant military hardware in the region. The USS Ronald Reagan, the aircraft “supercarrier” and flagship of the US Navy recently dispatched to the waters off North Korea, is permanently based in Yokuska at the mouth of Tokyo Bay.
Third, there is an historic animosity between Japan and North Korea; indeed, the very founding of North Korea and the current dynasty is rooted in resistance to the Japanese occupation of the peninsula in the first third of the 20th century. As I learned in a recent Newsweek Feature by Samuel Earle, the origin myth of North Korea’s current dynasty is inextricably linked to Kim Il-Sung’s resistance to the Japanese occupation of Korea. So if Kim Jong-un were to “sink” Japan as he has recently threatened to do, he would simply be fulfilling the war against Japan fought by his grandfather almost 100 years ago.
So, IS North Korea likely to directly attack Japan? Despite the recent escalation of words, with “Rocket Man” and “dotard” being flung across the Pacific, it still seems unlikely. A graver and more imminent concern, perhaps is North Korea’s threat to carry out an atmospheric explosion of a hydrogen bomb, the fallout from which could affect the entire region.
I will continue to post updates from ‘Einstein’s Monsters’ on Big Sushi, Little Fishes as long as there is interest. You can also read the full text of Einstein’s Monsters at https://medium.com/@aaronpaulson/einsteins-monsters-in-tokyo-an-expat-view-3c6fdaa44f1e