It looks increasingly likely that North Korea will test a long-range missile in the coming days, and the possibility sparked a trilateral conversation today between Tokyo, Seoul, and Washington. The Japan Times reports:
Defense officials from Japan, the United States and South Korea held a video conference Friday to discuss the planned North Korean satellite launch they widely believe will be a cover for a ballistic missile test.
According to the Defense Ministry, working-level officials from the three allies shared information on the situation and agreed to coordinate their response to the provocative test, which will violate U.N. sanctions. They also vowed to cooperate with the international community in dealing with the launch.
No one knows whether the Norks can successfully launch the missile or not—there’s a good chance, based on recent experience, that even Pyongyang may not be sure. But Japanese airlines have been using alternate flight paths, and Tokyo has indicated that it may attempt to shoot down the projectile with its missile defense system.
One country is notably, if unsurprisingly, excluded from the preparations: China. Particularly after last month’s nuclear test, Seoul and Tokyo have made no secret of their displeasure with Beijing’s inability or (many suspect) unwillingness to control North Korea. China has been trying at least to appear to pressure North Korea, sending a diplomat to the Hermit Kingdom and issuing a stern warning. But it’s clear that Japan and South Korea don’t trust Beijing, and they’ve turned to Washington for assistance.
North Korea is not helping Chinese President Xi Jinping’s efforts to warm relations with these neighbors.