Address mounting threat posed by diversification of Pyongyang’s missile arsenal

It can be said that North Korea’s tactic of promoting the development of a variety of nuclear weapons in an attempt to negotiate on an equal footing with the United States as a “nuclear power” has become clear again.

Japan, the United States and South Korea must strengthen cooperation and enhance deterrence.

North Korea announced that it has test-fired a hypersonic missile. It claims it has confirmed the maneuverability and stability of the flight as well as the guiding function of the warhead, among other things. It is thought that Pyongyang was referring to the missile that was fired from northern North Korea toward the Sea of Japan on the morning of Sept. 28.

Hypersonic missiles are difficult to detect and intercept because they fly at low altitudes while changing their trajectories at more than five times the speed of sound. The United States, Russia and China have been competing to develop such missiles.

This is the first time North Korea has fired this type of missile. South Korea’s military said Pyongyang is in the “early stages of development.” However, if North Korea improves its capabilities through repeated tests, it will undoubtedly pose a serious threat to Japan and South Korea, as well as U.S. forces stationed in the two countries.

The Japanese government needs to closely analyze the missile launched this time and reexamine its missile defense system.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who is the general secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, has indicated his intention to shrink down the size of nuclear warheads and diversify the country’s missiles, the means of delivering nuclear weapons.

The latest missile launch, following the launches of new long-range cruise missiles on Sept. 11 and 12 and ballistic missiles on Sept. 15, can be said to embody such ambitions. Does Kim continue to believe that expanding his country’s nuclear capabilities is the best means of survival for his regime?

In an address to the U.N. General Assembly, North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations said Pyongyang’s testing and possession of weapons equivalent to those of the United States and South Korea amounts to a “legitimate right to self-defense.”

It is an outrageous assertion that ignores the U.N. Security Council’s sanctions resolutions prohibiting North Korea from developing nuclear weapons. It is absolutely unacceptable.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in reiterated his call to declare a formal end to the Korean War in his speech at the United Nations.

Moon said he expects a declaration to be made by the four countries of South Korea, North Korea, the United States and China.

With less than eight months left in his term, Moon may be attempting to appeal to the public by aiming to realize the historic achievement of easing tensions on the Korean Peninsula through an end-of-war declaration.

However, with North Korea showing no intention of abandoning its nuclear programs and, on the contrary, moving forward with its nuclear development, it would be misguided to mention an end-of-war declaration. It will only allow North Korea, which is trying to weaken the U.S.-South Korea alliance, to make demands such as the suspension of joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises.

South Korea should maintain sanctions pressure on North Korea and focus on cooperation with Japan and the United States in the security field.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Oct. 1, 2021.