Photo Credit: Kobi Gideon / GPO
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Japan's Foreign Minister Tarō Kōno in Jerusalem

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – who also serves as Israel’s foreign minister – told his Japanese diplomatic counterpart Monday (Dec. 25) during talks in Jerusalem, “We both live in challenging regions, but we’re committed to the pursuit of prosperity, security and peace, and I think it’s easier for any one of us to achieve it with the help of the other.”

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Japan’s Foreign Minister Tarō Kōno is in Israel for a two-day visit – his fourth time in the country – during which he will also travel to the Palestinian Authority in an ongoing diplomatic effort to advance peace between the Fatah-led PA government and the Jewish State.

Kōno noted that although it is his first visit to Israel as Japan’s foreign minister, it is his fourth visit to the country. “Thanks to Your Excellency’s visit to Japan,” he said, “I think the bilateral relationship is expanding. Especially, the number of the Japanese companies in Israel has doubled in the last three years and the investment – Japanese investment in Israel – has increased 20 times in the last three years. So I think the relationship, bilaterally, is going very well and we would like to continue this momentum.”

Japan has recently begun to upgrade its security apparatus in light of the escalating threat from North Korea, and although defense was not an issue listed on the public agenda, it is not unlikely that it came up in private discussions between the two leaders.

Due to the wave of ransomware attacks earlier this year, Japan sought – and received – Israeli assistance in its cyber security sector in order to protect its networks ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Israel Defense reported in June. An agreement was signed with Israel in May by Hiroshige Seko, Japan’s minister of economy, trade and industry, for greater cooperation on cyber security. Israel is home to more than 300 companies in the cyber security field.

But Japan faces a much greater security threat from its aggressive neighbor to the west. North Korea, which in the past provided support for Arab nations fighting Israel in numerous conflicts as well, has taken aim at Japan nearly every time it test-launches a ballistic missile.

More recently, and closer to home for Japan, a Japanese newspaper reported about a week ago that North Korea is now testing the deadly anthrax virus and other biological elements for use in delivery via long-range missile warheads.

Last last month (Nov. 29) North Korea launched a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), one that has the potential to reach much of the continental United States, according to military analysts. As it has with others, Pyongyang aimed the missile at Japan. The Hwasong-15 landed within the maritime boundaries of Japan’s exclusive economic zone which extends 200 nautical miles from its coast, after a flight of approximately 523 minutes.

With Iran aiming at Israel and North Korea aiming at Japan, and both nations allied together, Netanyahu and Kōno indeed had much to talk about in Jerusalem.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.