N. Korea should stop folly of missile launches that only further isolation

What does North Korea think it can gain by promoting nuclear and missile development that threatens regional stability? The international community must put more sanctions pressure on Pyongyang to stop its folly.

North Korea fired a suspected ballistic missile eastward from an inland area. The projectile is believed to have fallen into the Sea of Japan outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone. According to Japan’s Defense Ministry, the flying object would have traveled about 500 kilometers if it followed a standard trajectory.

The Japanese government needs to share intelligence with the United States and South Korea to swiftly analyze the type and capabilities of the flying object.

In his speech at the end of December last year, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who is the general secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, said, “The increasingly unstable military environment on the Korean Peninsula and international politics have instigated calls to vigorously push forward with our national defense buildup plans.” He also stressed his intention to promote the development of “powerful” weapons.

It is North Korea itself that is worsening the security environment in East Asia. To speak as if other countries were responsible makes no sense.

In autumn last year, North Korea conducted a series of weapon firing tests, such as with missiles that fly on irregular trajectories and a submarine-launched ballistic missile. It is obvious that Pyongyang intends to diversify the types of missiles it can use to deliver nuclear weapons and increase its offensive capabilities.

By possessing new types of weapons that can be used to target U.S. bases in Japan, North Korea seems to be continuing its tactic of securing a deterrence capability against the United States and gaining an advantageous position in order to pull Washington into negotiations. The launch this time can be said to be an extension of that tactic.

It has been 10 years since Kim Jong Un succeeded his father Kim Jong Il as supreme leader. During this period, Pyongyang has conducted four nuclear tests and launched about 60 ballistic missiles, and is believed to have possessed dozens of nuclear weapons.

This overemphasis on military policy has resulted in North Korea’s international isolation and economic woes. Kim Jong Un managed to hold the first-ever summit between the United States and North Korea, but his insistence on possessing nuclear weapons prevented him from moving the country into a normal direction.

U.N. Security Council sanctions resolutions ban North Korea from conducting nuclear tests and launching ballistic missiles. As long as Pyongyang continues to violate these resolutions, sanctions will never be lifted. Kim has set a goal of improving people’s livelihoods, but this cannot coexist with nuclear arms expansion.

China, as a permanent member of the Security Council, has a responsibility to strictly implement U.N. sanctions. As North Korea’s largest trading partner, there should still be plenty of room for Beijing to increase pressure on Pyongyang.

Ahead of the opening of the Beijing Winter Olympics a month from now, China also cannot overlook North Korea’s repeated military provocations.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Jan. 6, 2022.