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North Korea blasts Japan for Middle East deployment plans

By Elizabeth Shim
North Korea blasts Japan for Middle East deployment plans
North Korea warned Japan against deployment in the Middle East on Monday. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 16 (UPI) -- North Korea state media denounced Japanese discussions of deploying Tokyo's troops to the Middle East, describing the move as a realization of Japan's "invasion ambitions."

Pyongyang's state-controlled news agency KCNA suggested in the statement issued Monday that Japan is seeking an excuse to expand militarily overseas, referring to recent reports on Japanese policy in the Middle East.

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In early December, Kyodo News reported Tokyo is considering sending troops to the Middle East to guard ships navigating the Strait of Hormuz, an oil-shipping route. The troop deployment would operate independently of a U.S.-led coalition, and Defense Minister Taro Kono could visit Oman by the end of the year to seek cooperation on a refueling base, according to the report.

Describing the Japanese plans as "dangerous tricks," North Korea claimed Kono made an appearance in the Middle East to justify the deployment of Japan's self-defense forces; Kono has yet to make a visit to the region.

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"Japan is making frantic efforts to realize its ambition of foreign invasion," KCNA said Monday.

On Wednesday, Kyodo News reported Tokyo is to address Middle East deployment at a cabinet council meeting this Friday. If approved, Japan could deployment a convoy to an oil-shipping route for "investigation and research."

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Japan is increasingly wary of North Korea's military activities. In 2019, North Korea engaged in more than a dozen round of provocations involving "new weapons systems" and submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

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Japan is stepping up collection of data on North Korea and plans to launch a new intelligence-gathering satellite in January, NHK reported Monday.

The optical intelligence-gathering satellite will be launched on Jan. 27 from Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture. The satellite is capable of collecting information from the Earth's surface with a high-performance camera.

Cost of development was about $274 million, according to the report.

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