In a July 3rd article quoted by the Korean Central News Agency, Rodong Sinmun writes that the U.S. is “massively deploying its forces in Okinawa” because it believes it is an integral base from which to mount its pivot to Asia strategy.
The newspaper then writes that this strategy is “seriously mistaken” because the Okinawa base is vulnerable to attack.
“But the U.S. is seriously mistaken. The U.S. base on Okinawa is exposed to any strike. Its neighboring powers are following Okinawa with heightened vigilance as the U.S. pursues a sinister aim…. The U.S. would be well advised to give up a foolish daydream and behave itself.”
Although stopping short of saying explicitly that North Korea would attack Okinawa, instead couching it in terms of “neighboring powers,” the implication is clear.
Indeed, it is not the first time that North Korea has threatened U.S. bases in Japan via the Workers’ Party of Korea mouthpiece, Rodong Sinmun. Amid the prolonged Korean crisis earlier this year, for instance, the newspaper warned that:
“It is a matter of course that Yokosuka, Misawa and Okinawa are located within the range of our attacks along with Guam.”
However, as Japanese media outlets noted at the time, “North Korea in the past has suggested that Japan would be the target of its attacks. However, it is rare for the country to list specific areas of Japan as potential targets.”
Additionally, last year a KCNA article threatened to launch nuclear strikes on various South Korean media outlets, going so far as to list the latitude and longitudes it planned to aim the missiles at. As Jeffrey Lewis pointed out, however, the coordinates listed by KCNA appeared to differ fairly significantly from the actual location of the media outlets.
Although the most recent threat to attack to Okinawa comes amid a North Korean charm offensive, its timing could be tied to the United States’ July 4th Independence Day.
North Korea has used the U.S. holiday to carry provocations in the past, including back in 2009 when Pyongyang launched seven short-range missiles into the Sea of Japan on July 4 despite having tested four missiles two days prior.
Back in 1972, North and South Korea issued their historic joint statement on reunification on July 4 as well.
The latest threats to Okinawa also come at a time when North Korea is celebrating its annual “June 25-July 27 month of anti-U.S. joint struggle.” The dates are significant in that they mark the beginning (June 25, 1950) and ending (July 27, 1953) of active fighting in the Korean War.