Japan's defence chief warns of possible North Korea provocation on Oct 10

Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said Oct 10 marks an important anniversary for North Korea. It is the date the North celebrates the founding of the North Korean communist party.
Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said Oct 10 marks an important anniversary for North Korea. It is the date the North celebrates the founding of the North Korean communist party.PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera urged caution on Friday (Sept 29) because more provocation was possible from North Korea on Oct 10, when the start of Lower House election campaigns in Japan coincides with one of the North's main anniversaries.

Tensions have risen on the Korean peninsula since reclusive North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept 3, leading to a new round of sanctions after a unanimous vote by the United Nations Security Council.

US President Donald Trump has since traded insults with North Korean leaders, raising the stakes even further.

North Korea has often marked significant events on its calendar by conducting weapons tests, such as its fifth nuclear test last year on Sept 9, its founding anniversary.

Onodera said Oct 10 marks an important anniversary for North Korea. It is the date the North celebrates the founding of the North Korean communist party.

"I understand it is an important anniversary for North Korea. We would like to maintain a sense of urgency," Onodera told reporters.

Oct 10 is also coincidentally the same day that campaigns will begin in Japan for parliament's lower house election 12 days later after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dissolved the chamber on Thursday.

Onodera's warning echoed a comment by South Korean national security adviser Chung Eui-yong, who said during a meeting with President Moon Jae In on Thursday that he expected Pyongyang to act around Oct. 10 and 18, but gave no details.

Oct 18 marks the start of China's all-important Communist Party Congress.

North Korea has conducted a series of ballistic missile launches this year, including two launches over Japan in recent weeks, in defiance of international pressure.

China, North Korea's main ally and trading partner, has urged that dialogue is the only way to resolve the crisis, although Japan has tended to support Washington's more robust approach.

Abe has said now is the time to apply pressure on North Korea, rather than dialogue, in order to convince North Korea to end its nuclear and missile programmes.