Cooperating in N. Korea’s missile development can never be allowed

North Korea has again launched a ballistic missile. The international community must step up pressure to stop the outflow of related materials and technology from Russia and China.

This is the seventh round of missile launches in January alone. The missile was launched at a high angle, putting it on a lofted trajectory difficult to intercept, and fell outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone. It is estimated to have traveled about 800 kilometers.

North Korea announced that it was a test launch of a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile. This was the first Hwasong-12 missile launch since September 2017, when one passed over Hokkaido and fell into the Pacific Ocean. Unsurprisingly, the Japanese government strongly condemned the launch as “totally unacceptable.”

North Korea has also indicated that it has deployed the Hwasong-12 in its military. If fired at a standard angle, it is believed to be capable of reaching the U.S. territory of Guam — North Korea can be said to have heightened its provocations against the United States.

In 2017, North Korea launched projectiles such as intercontinental ballistic missiles and the Hwasong-12 and conducted a nuclear test. In April 2018, North Korea announced that it would suspend its nuclear tests and ICBM launches. However, this January, Pyongyang mentioned the possibility of resuming these activities.

It is important for the Japanese government to enhance its vigilance through such measures as reexamining its missile interceptor system and the operation of the J-Alert nationwide instantaneous warning system.

U.N. Security Council resolutions explicitly prohibit North Korea from launching ballistic missiles. However, due to opposition from China and Russia, the Security Council has been unable to issue even a statement of condemnation.

In January, the U.S. government imposed sanctions on six North Koreans and a Russian company, among others, for involvement in North Korea’s procurement of materials and equipment related to ballistic missiles in China and Russia. The North Koreans are said to have obtained strong fibers that can be used for missiles, and technology for manufacturing solid fuel.

China has been supporting the North Korean economy through trade. In addition, there are frequent allegations that North Korea is engaged in ship-to-ship smuggling of refined oil products from other countries in China’s territorial waters.

There is a strong view that North Korea is able to improve its missile capabilities because both China and Russia accept these activities. If China and Russia want to deny this, they should implement thorough domestic investigations and controls, and agree to tighter Security Council sanctions.

North Korea is also developing missiles that are more difficult to intercept.

The Japanese government has begun exchanging opinions with experts in order to revise such items as the National Security Strategy and the National Defense Program Outline. It must move more quickly to specifically consider possession of the capability to attack enemy bases to strengthen deterrence.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Feb. 1, 2022.