‘The threat from North Korea keeps getting more serious’

Irish man Andrew McCarthy lives in Tokyo, 1,000km from this week's missile’s trajectory

Andrew McCarthy: “There are many things I love about Japan and I would dearly miss it if I were to move back to Ireland with my wife and son.”

Andrew McCarthy: “There are many things I love about Japan and I would dearly miss it if I were to move back to Ireland with my wife and son.”

 

I was woken by my wife shortly after 6am on Tuesday, telling me that North Korea had just fired a missile and that it was flying over Hokkaido, Japan’s northern island. She happened to be up and awake when an alert popped up on the top of the TV screen, complete with the usual warning sound.

Since we live in Tokyo, about 1,000km south of the missile’s trajectory, all we could do was watch the news unfold on the TV.

It feels like the threat from North Korea keeps getting more serious. At first it was its lack of co-operation in providing information on Japanese citizens who were kidnapped from Japanese coastal towns by North Korean agents in the 1970s. Then they claimed that missile tests were actually failed satellite launches.

Very few of the experts are willing to give their opinion as to what should be done

However, the rhetoric is getting more threatening recently, with a series of blatant and unapologetic missile tests in the Sea of Japan and threats to strike Guam.

Complicated analyses

Since Tuesday morning’s missile test, almost every station on Japanese TV has been covering the story, with some providing dedicated all-day coverage. The usual experts on North Korea have been rolled out to share their complicated analyses with concerned and often bemused-looking TV news presenters.

The focus, as is often the case in Japan, is on the detail, such as the speed and trajectory of the missile. Very few of the experts are willing to give their opinion as to what should be done about the despot across the water.

Many of us living in Tokyo have become accustomed to dealing with these threats from North Korea, and regard them with a kind of stoic fortitude.

Since I came to Japan in 2004, I have experienced typhoons, monsoons, train accidents and many earthquakes

At work, it feels like no one can even be bothered to broach the subject, as it only leads to shrugging of shoulders and shaking of heads. It’s like the fly that buzzes around you but won’t go away, no matter how hard you try to swat it. Eventually you just give up and grin and bear it, hoping that it will eventually go away.

Since I came to Japan in 2004, I have experienced typhoons, monsoons, train accidents and many earthquakes. The Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 was undoubtedly the most serious of these.

Courageous smiles

As a teacher and doctoral student, I’m lucky to have a career that offers me the opportunity to live and work in one of the most exciting cities in the world. There are many things I love about Japan and I would dearly miss it if I were to move back to Ireland with my wife and son.

It does feel as if the threat level has been raised with this recent missile test

Not least of these would be the ability of the people here to endure hardship and impending danger with courageous smiles.

“It does feel as if the threat level has been raised with this recent missile test. Until recently, we felt that only those living in western coastal areas would have cause for concern in the event of a missile strike. And even then, we felt that it would be shot down by either the American, South Korean or Japanese forces.

But now it seems that not only is North Korea bold enough to fly a missile right over Japan, it now also has the knowledge that no one is either ready or willing to shoot it down. Therefore, the question that really worries us all here is: what’s next?

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