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Japanese chef dishes on North Korean leader and missile launch

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Fujimoto, who served as a chef specializing in preparing sushi for North Korean leader Kim Jong-il from 1988 to 2001, is convinced this response misses the central reason why North Korea plans to launch the missile.

“I do not believe Kim Jong-un is acting aggressively,” he says. Rather, “he has the idea somewhere in his heart to shoot off something to honor his father” on the first anniversary of his death on Dec. 17. “It’s unavoidable to have the launching of the rocket on that day,” he goes on. Moreover, he adds, “he feels he must do this as a demonstration of his future.”

That remark suggests Kim Jong-un’s need to prove his strength against the background of a power struggle in which a number of top generals have lost their jobs. Fujimoto accepts the widespread view that Kim Jong-un's uncle by marriage, Jang Song-thaek, husband of Kim Jong-il’s younger sister, is the country’s second most powerful leader – “in the background” possibly making the key decisions.

Fujimoto believes Kim Jong-un actually would like to improve relations with the US, South Korea, and Japan.

“Though on the surface, it seems North Korea is taking a very adversarial position,” he says, “there is the feeling North Korea wants to clasp hands as soon as possible.” He adds, for emphasis, “that feeling exists toward Japan as well.”

Japanese leaders, however, clearly do not subscribe to this view.

The central government has sent detailed confidential messages to local officials outlining how to respond “if flying objects should drop on the mainland” as a result of the missile shot. The message states that North Korea has said the missile will fly over the Yellow Sea on a trajectory past the Philippine islands but outlines precautions in case it veers over Japan. (Read more about North Korea's prep for a rocket launch, despite international warnings)

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