Ever-stronger nuclear capabilities pose a serious threat

Every time North Korea test-fires a ballistic missile, which can be used as a nuclear warhead delivery vehicle, its nuclear capabilities get stronger and the threat it poses gets more serious. Japan, the United States and South Korea should make efforts to strengthen their cooperation to improve deterrence.

North Korea fired a ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan. It flew about 500 kilometers and fell outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone. It is believed to have reached an altitude of about 800 kilometers, having been launched at a higher angle of trajectory than normal.

This is North Korea’s 13th missile launch this year alone. It is likely that Pyongyang is trying to confirm and improve the performance of its missiles by frequently launching a wide variety of them. It has also been developing new types of missiles, including a hypersonic projectile that flies on irregular trajectories.

Some say that the latest launch is a test toward the completion of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that can reach the U.S. mainland. Japan, the United States and South Korea must quickly analyze the available information.

North Korea showed off its various missiles, including a new ICBM — the Hwasong-17 missile — at its military parade marking the 90th anniversary of the founding of its military on April 25. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who is also general secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, said in a speech on the occasion that he would strengthen and develop his country’s nuclear arsenal at the “fastest possible pace.”

North Korea’s egotistical logic is to possess nuclear weapons to deter attacks from the United States. Pyongyang is believed to be working on improving a test site with the aim of resuming nuclear tests, in addition to missile tests. More vigilance is needed.

Kim has also stated he will not hesitate to put nuclear weapons to practical use. Was Kim inspired by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has threatened Ukraine by signaling the potential use of nuclear weapons in connection with his invasion of the country? Any behavior that makes light of the threat of nuclear weapons — capable of wiping out humankind — is unacceptable.

The latest launch comes just before South Korean President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol takes office on May 10.

Yoon has indicated that he will change the current administration’s conciliatory policy toward North Korea and strengthen his country’s defense system through close cooperation with the United States and Japan. The launch was also apparently intended to threaten Yoon.

U.S. President Joe Biden is scheduled to visit Japan and South Korea in late May. It is hoped that the United States will reaffirm the strength of its alliances with Japan and South Korea.

Despite North Korea’s launches of ballistic missiles in violation of U.N. Security Council sanctions resolutions, the council has not taken any effective action against Pyongyang.

The United States is preparing a new resolution to strengthen sanctions against North Korea, but it is unlikely to be adopted as long as China and Russia, who hold veto power as permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, oppose it.

China, which backs North Korea, needs to face up to the reality that the Security Council’s failure to take any action has allowed Pyongyang to run out of control. China also must accept tougher sanctions against North Korea.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 5, 2022)