Where is Hokkaido? The Japanese island most at risk from North Korean missiles


latest long-range missiles tests , as  rockets soared over the northern island of .

Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, branded the situation while Prime Minister called on the to convene an emergency meeting of member states.

China has since cautioned US President as he did with his recent pledge to meet Pyongyang sabre-rattling with .

The threat of nuclear warfare erupting in East Asia remains very real and North Korea’s latest exploits over the Sea of Japan indicate a further advance in the rogue state’s ballistic capabilities as it seeks to develop an intercontinental missile capable of carrying a warhead.

But how real is the threat to Japan and to Hokkaido in particular? Where is the island and what is life like there?

Hokkaido is Japan’s northernmost island, lying just 27 miles from Russian soil and east of the disputed Kuril Islands.

It covers 32,221 square miles and is separated from Japan’s largest landmass, Honshu, by the Tsugaru Strait and connected by an undersea railway line via the Seikan Tunnel. Its terrain is mountainous, particularly at the heart of the island, causing it to be less developed than much of the rest of the country. The capital city, Sapporo, is its biggest conurbation. 

The island is seismically active and was badly damaged by a tsunami in 1993, when 202 people were killed when a wave triggered by a 7.7 magnitude earthquake lashed Okushiri.

Hokkiado is generally well known for its inhospitable climate, comprising harsh snowy winters, sub-zero temperatures and frozen seas.

During the , Hokkaido was largely spared from allied bombing but did come under attack from the US Navy, seeking to disable its shipping and military capabilities. Its southern ports were severely damaged by US aircraft in raids on 14 and 15 July 1945 as war in the Pacific ended in defeat for Imperial Japan.

Modern day Hokkaido has a population of approximately 5.4 million people. Its economy is dominated by the service sector, with agriculture and tourism also playing a key role.

In pictures: North Korea military drill In pictures: North Korea military drill

A quiet and largely peaceful locale, Hokkaido’s people have long lived with the threat posed to their way of life by the natural world.

Today, they find themselves looking nervously across the strait as their neighbour’s nuclear ambitions gather pace at an ever-more-alarming rate.


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