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Japanese chef dishes on North Korean leader and missile launch

'It’s hard to understand why surrounding countries are so sensitive,' says Kenji Fujimoto, who left North Korea in 2001 but returned for a visit last summer at Kim Jong-un’s invitation.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) waves during the Fourth Conference of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) in Pyongyang earlier this year.

KCNA/REUTERS

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The Japanese chef who cooked for North Korean leaders for 13 years – before finding a pretext to return to Japan – believes North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has no desire to upset other countries by sanctioning the firing of a long-range missile later this month. 

“It’s hard to understand why surrounding countries are so sensitive,” says Kenji Fujimoto, who left North Korea in 2001 but returned for several weeks last summer at Kim Jong-un’s invitation. “Even if a nuclear warhead were attached,” he says, “North Korea would never actually push the button.” North Korea’s nuclear program is “only a deterrence” he believes, to attack by other countries. 

Mr. Fujimoto offered the rationale for North Korea’s plan to launch the missile sometime between next Monday and Dec. 22 during a barrage of questions by journalists after he talked here about his return to North Korea in July. His sanguine view contrasts with that of officials in Japan, the United States, and South Korea who see the plan to launch the missile as a hostile move that can only exacerbate tensions in the region.

Earlier in the day, for instance, Lt. Gen. Salvatore Angelella, commander of the 50,000 US troops in Japan, characterized the plan as possibly creating “a very dangerous situation.” And in Seoul, South Korea’s unification ministry said the South would “sternly deal” with what it called “a direct and serious security threat to us.”

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