Outrageous acts heighten threat to Japan, U.S. and South Korea

North Korea has intensified its military provocations, raising regional tensions. Aggressive acts that appear to be testing the deterrence of Japan, the United States and South Korea must never be tolerated. The international community as a whole needs to deal strictly with the situation.

North Korea fired ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan on Nov. 3. The U.S. government determined that one of the missiles was an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that could reach the U.S. mainland.

According to the South Korean military, the missile is believed to have been a Hwasong-17, a new ICBM, and it is likely to have fallen into the Sea of Japan due to a problem mid-flight after second-stage separation.

On Nov. 2, North Korea also fired more than 20 missiles, a record number for a single day. One crossed the Northern Limit Line, the maritime boundary between South Korea and North Korea, and landed in international waters on the South Korean side.

The launch raised tensions in South Korea, where an air-raid alert was issued for the first time in six years and nine months.

North Korea is escalating provocations in response to a large-scale joint military drill being conducted by the U.S. and South Korean militaries that started at the end of October. The North Korean side had said it would consider taking countermeasures because it was provoked militarily, but this is completely unreasonable.

The South Korea-U.S. drill is aimed at deterring North Korea from taking reckless actions. Pyongyang has repeatedly launched missiles in violation of U.N. Security Council sanctions resolutions and is even thought to be preparing a nuclear test. All responsibility lies with North Korea, which will not abandon its nuclear development in violation of international law.

As long as North Korea maintains its hard-line stance, Japan, the United States and South Korea must work to strengthen their defense systems. The United States and South Korea have decided to extend the exercise, which was scheduled to end on Nov. 4. It may be their way of sending a message that they will not give in to North Korea’s threats.

In May, the U.N. Security Council failed to adopt a resolution to strengthen sanctions against North Korea in response to a series of missile launches by Pyongyang, due to vetoes by China and Russia, two permanent members of the council. China and Russia’s stance, which emboldens North Korea, should also be severely criticized.

On Nov. 3, the Japanese government issued warnings to Miyagi, Yamagata and Niigata prefectures, to inform the public that a missile might pass over Japan, through the J-Alert early warning system that transmits emergency information nationwide. This turned out not to be so, but it is understandable that a warning was issued as there was a possibility of a missile flying over Japan.

The missile in question reportedly disappeared from Japanese radar over the Sea of Japan. The government must swiftly verify if there is a flaw in the system for detecting and tracking missiles.

Japan needs to further strengthen cooperation with the United States and South Korea through such measures as sharing information from U.S. early warning satellites, and improve its missile response capabilities.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 4, 2022)