Launching a rocket this week that could double as a ballistic missile was a North Korean demonstration of Communist military capability.
It said Pyongyang has the technology to send not only a satellite into orbit but also a nuclear warhead across the Pacific to strike at North America.
East Asian capitals also followed the launch, with dread, while Pyongyang celebrated it as symbolic of a successful transition.
This week was the first anniversary of Kim Jong Un’s ascension to lead North Korea, taking up where his father Kim Jong Il left off. That includes maintaining its nuclear programme, ignoring international calls to abandon it. China, with its UN Security Council veto, won’t allow sanctions.
China is also under renewed leadership, and is open about aims to strengthen still further its role as the region’s policeman.
Incoming President Xi Jinping, never mind the proverbial ‘speak softly and carry a big stick’, following his promotion in November, to head China’s Communist Party, blatantly told troops:
“To be able to wage war, and win war, is the key to a strong military. The entire military must be constructed with waging war as its standard.”
China’s military budget for 2012 was more than 11 percent up on the year before, and in September it launched its first aircraft carrier. Power like this at sea worries Japan.
Tokyo has been shifting its strategy focus over the past two years, seeing less of a threat from Russia and more of a threat from China. Geographical interests in the southwest were moved up in priority.
The return to government in the wake of a sweeping electoral victory of conservative statesman Shinzo Abe is not likely to calm fervour in Tokyo. His message wasn’t soft either, not to be mistaken for a territorial ‘chicken’.
He said: “We own and actively control the Senkaku islands – no discussion! We must tell both China and the international community this.”
While Senkaku is in the south, Japan is equally adamant about the disputed island it calls Takeshima, in the north, over which South Korea also claims sovereignty. The others’ names are Diaoyu and Dokdo, respectively.
New President-elect in Seoul Park Geun-hye, sticking to her predecessor’s firm territorial line, has already said she is not fazed by any tough talk from Japan.