Slices of Japanese business, politics and life
An anonymous Japanese official has raised eyebrows with off-the-cuff comments as the country prepares for an expected rocket launch by neighbouring North Korea.
First, the official questioned whether Japan could really shoot down a stray rocket if its territory was threatened, next he — well, most likely ‘he’ — compared the looming launch to a wayward golf ball that would prompt the shout of “Fore!”, the traditional warning to watch out on the golf course.
A missile “would be to high and would not be visible, so from the people’s perspective, they won’t know what is happening. It would be neat if we could see it,” the Asahi newspaper quoted the official as saying.
“If it flies somewhere, one would feel like shouting ‘Fore’,” he added.
The Japanese and U.S. military are deploying land and sea-based missile interceptors and ships with high-tech radar, Japanese local authorities are holding drills and a Tokyo resident is dreaming of missiles as the date nears for a rocket launch by Japan’s secretive neighbour North Korea.
Pyongyang has said the launch planned for April 4-8 is for the peaceful purpose of sending a satellite into orbit, but the United States, South Korea and Japan see it as a disguised test of a Taepodong-2 missile that in theory could reach Alaska or Hawaii.
Captain Takuha Shimoishi is a member of a crack squadron of fighter pilots at the front line of some of Japan’s most sensitive territorial disputes, ready to scramble to check out incursions into the country’s airspace at any moment.
But however fast the slender 35-year-old leaps into his F-15 fighter, he is sometimes forced to wait in line behind planeloads of holidaymakers before taking off, he told me during a tour of the Naha military base on the southern island of Okinawa this week.