Swiftly respond to threat of missiles flying over Japan

Dangerous military action that directly threatens Japan’s security and undermines regional and global stability can never be tolerated. Japan needs to work with the United States and South Korea to quickly improve its missile defense capabilities.

On the morning of Oct. 4, North Korea launched a ballistic missile. According to Japan’s Defense Ministry, the missile flew over Aomori Prefecture and traveled about 4,600 kilometers. It is believed to have fallen into waters in the Pacific Ocean. It is the longest distance ever flown by a North Korean ballistic missile.

This is the first time in five years that a North Korean missile has flown over Japan, and the seventh time in total. It is an outrageous act that could cause damage to planes, ships and fishermen, among others.

The missile was highly likely a Hwasong-12, an intermediate-range ballistic missile that can reach the U.S. territory of Guam.

The fact that it was the longest flight distance ever recorded indicates North Korea’s missile technology has improved. Pyongyang may have wanted to show off its ability to attack Guam, where U.S. bases are located. North Korea has been consistent in its strategy of developing a nuclear force capable of countering the United States.

The international community must deal strictly with North Korea’s launch of a ballistic missile, which violates U.N. Security Council resolutions. The Security Council, including China and Russia, unanimously adopted a statement condemning the launch of a Hwasong-12 when it was fired five years ago.

It makes no sense for the Security Council not to take similar steps quickly. In recent years, China and Russia have opposed tightening sanctions against North Korea, but they should recognize that their stance has made the situation worse.

Under the Self-Defense Forces Law, the Japanese government has issued an order since August 2016 to the SDF to destroy missiles, but no interception measures were taken when the latest missile launch happened.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno explained, “This was because it was fully detected and tracked from immediately after the launch until it fell into the water, and no damage to Japan was expected.”

It is important for Japan, the United States and South Korea to share information detected by U.S. early warning satellites and other intelligence, and improve their missile response capabilities. It is hoped that the recent missile launch will serve as an opportunity for them to examine and improve their detection, tracking and interception capabilities.

The Japanese government called for caution and evacuation through the J-Alert, an early warning system that transmits emergency information nationwide. However, the content of a notification sent from the central government to the Tokyo metropolitan government was erroneous. In some areas of Hokkaido and Aomori Prefecture, information was reportedly not conveyed smoothly due partly to faults in the reception equipment.

The central and local governments need to investigate the cause of the trouble and make sure the system works properly.

It is also the responsibility of administrative bodies to secure evacuation sites and routes and ensure that residents are aware of them.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 5, 2022)