From Toledo to the Far East: Japanese Officials Comment on North Korea Threat

Tokyo, Japan (WTOL) - I was just miles away when North Korea tested its latest missile this weekend.

Japanese experts and government officials I am speaking with in Tokyo tell our group of reporters on the East-West Center Jefferson Fellowship that North Korean provocations are not new.

For decades, the rogue nation has defied international law by acquiring, developing and trying out its nuclear program. Still, as I experienced first hand, proximity puts Japan and Tokyo's more than 9 million residents in North Korea's crosshairs.

A missile could hit Japan in just ten minutes.

Officially armed with only defense forces as a result of the World War II peace agreement, the Japanese are vulnerable and fear a provocation could escalate quickly and result in destruction and scores dead or maimed.

Ways for the Japanese protect itself include a military solution within the scope of defensive measures, including using conventional weapons, ballistic shields and strong ties with allies such as the U.S.

Another option is diplomatic and the strongest hand belongs China which makes up 90 percent of North Korea's trade. But the Asian giant may want to keep things with North Korea as they are in order to pursue its economic and political expansion in the region.

"The problem is that China does have the ability to influence North Korea. But they don't have the willingness to do so," declared security professor Michi Michishita from the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Japan.

Professor Michishita also cautions against believing that these actions are the sign of an unhinged man. Rather, the recent missile tests like the one that occurred during the weekend is a reflection of a strategic leader who aims to extract recognition as an equal among nations from the U.S. and the world, as well as economic trade benefits.

Whatever the end game, I am learning that Japan and its people have little choice but to hope for a peaceful resolution while preparing for the worst, including direct missile strikes.