It’s Not a Sanctuary Anymore

Yokota AB, Japan Recent provocative actions by North Korea and China’s military buildup in the South China Sea are pushing South Korea and Japan to overcome deep-rooted tensions that date back from before World War II. “I don’t think there has been a stronger point in the alliance between the US and Japan. We work very, very closely with them. The nature of the threats in the region are driving us closer together,” said Brig. Gen. Michael Winkler, vice commander of 5th Air Force. It’s also leading to more trilateral engagements between the US, South Korea, and Japan. Last week, just after Japan announced its new cabinet, North Korea launched two ballistic missiles toward the Sea of Japan. Though the first one exploded almost immediately, the second landed in the exclusive economic zone about 200 miles from Japan. One US Forces Japan official said the move was “very provocative” and a “source of a lot of heartburn.” Winkler said “a lot” of North Korea’s missiles are capable of reaching Japanese islands—a fact that is “very, very prevalent in the minds of the Japanese.” He said 15 years ago Japan was considered a “sanctuary,” but that’s clearly not the case anymore. “The reality of today is that we live under an anti-access, area-denial umbrella.” Winkler said he is “very excited” to have THAAD in theater. Even though its projected placement in South Korea will not “do a lot to defend the nation of Japan,” the information gathered from the system’s sensors can be shared with “all the US forces in theater and some of that data may be able to be shared with allies.”