Photo/IllutrationPrime Minister Shinzo Abe answers questions from reporters in his office in Tokyo on Sept. 3. (Rei Kishitsu)

Fears are growing within the Japanese government that U.S. President Donald Trump will launch a military attack on North Korea in response to the reclusive country’s sixth nuclear test on Sept. 3.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe convened the National Security Council (NSC) in his office twice that afternoon to address the situation.

In the meetings, Abe instructed members of the council, including Foreign Minister Taro Kono, to take appropriate measures by working closely with the United States and South Korea.

Kono met with U.S. Ambassador to Japan William Hagerty in the Foreign Ministry for about 20 minutes. Kono told reporters after the meeting, “The scale of the (Sept. 3) nuclear test was much larger than those of the previous ones. It is a threat to the entire international society.”

Kono then spoke on the telephone with his South Korean counterpart, Kang Kyung-wha, in which they agreed that now is the time to apply the maximum pressure on North Korea.

In the Defense Ministry, Katsutoshi Kawano, the highest-ranking officer of the Self-Defense Forces, talked with Jerry Martinez, head of U.S. Forces Japan, on the phone. In the talks, the two confirmed cooperation between Japan and the United States.

Japan is emphasizing the importance of close cooperation with the United States and South Korea because the nation does not have its own means to tackle the North Korea crisis, beyond strengthening diplomatic pressure while hinting at the Japan-U.S. alliance.

“North Korea has no intention of engaging in dialogue,” Kawano said.

But there is no other way for Japan, which has no capabilities to attack North Korea militarily.

However, if the United States does opt for a military option, the possibility of Japan becoming involved in the conflict will heighten.

Shotaro Yachi, director-general of the secretariat for the NSC, spoke with U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster on the phone. McMaster pointed out that the U.S. commitment to the security of Japan, including nuclear deterrence, is unshakable, according to the Japanese government.

In practice, Japan’s diplomatic pressure lacks effectiveness. When North Korea conducted nuclear tests in January and September 2016, Japan protested. It also called on the U.N. Security Council to hold emergency meetings and strengthen sanctions against Pyongyang, but such efforts have failed to prevent further provocative acts by North Korea.

Now, Japan is watching China to see what actions it will take. Sept. 3 was also the first day of the BRICS summit hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping in Amoy, China.

When North Korea launched a ballistic missile on May 14, the day fell immediately before the summit meeting of the “One Belt One Road” initiative advocated by Xi to create a huge economic zone from Asia to Europe.

“China is probably extremely angry (at North Korea’s sixth nuclear test),” said a high-ranking Japanese Foreign Ministry official.

Amid heightened criticism from other countries, including China, against North Korea, a high-ranking Japanese government official said, “The threats have risen to their highest point. From now on, the situation will depend on political bargaining.”