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Shinzo Abe vows to defend Japan against North Korea 'threats'

By
Elizabeth Shim
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called North Korea’s tests a dangerous provocative act but pledged to defend Japanese lives on Tuesday. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called North Korea’s tests a "dangerous provocative act" but pledged to defend Japanese lives on Tuesday. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

April 11 (UPI) -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sought to reassure his country as tough talk from U.S. President Donald Trump on North Korea and Pyongyang's escalating threats draw concerns of a possible military conflict.

Abe said Tokyo will "protect the peaceful lives of citizens in any situation" during a meeting of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Tuesday, NHK reported.

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Trump's order of a missile strike on Syria, a move that openly received Abe's support, may have also left many Japanese increasingly anxious about a conflict in their region, according to a recent Japanese survey.

Tensions have risen since Trump reportedly told Abe that all options are "on the table" following North Korea's most recent provocation: a failed missile launch, described by the Japanese prime minister as a "dangerous provocative act and a grave threat to security."

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The U.S. Navy also recently deployed the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson to the Korean peninsula, a move that was followed by a North Korea warning of "catastrophic consequences."

Experts have said an "all options" policy is a dangerous formula for North Korea.

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A strike on North Korea military facilities could not only lead to a devastating nuclear assault against South Korea, but also against targets in Japan.

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Pyongyang has been test-launching a greater number of midrange ballistic missiles that could strike U.S. military bases in Asia's second-largest economy.

North Korea's threats are changing Japanese public opinion on defense, according to NHK.

A recent survey of 1,233 Japanese respondents indicates 36 percent see a need to "review the self-defense force's strike capabilities against the enemy," according to the report.

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But the survey also showed 55 percent did not think positively of the U.S. strike against Syria's military bases.

Abe also maintains a 53 percent approval rating, according to the survey.

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