Strengthen International Pressure to Prevent Another Launch

Although Japan, the United States and South Korea called on North Korea to exercise self-restraint, Pyongyang went ahead with the launch of a de facto ballistic missile under the guise of “launching a military reconnaissance satellite.” This outrageous violation of international law must not be tolerated.

The missile was launched from the west coast of North Korea toward the south and fell into the Yellow Sea west of South Korea.

According to North Korea’s announcement, a “new-type carrier rocket” carrying a military reconnaissance satellite crashed after losing propulsion due to an abnormality in the second-stage engine after the separation of the first stage. North Korean authorities acknowledged the failure.

North Korea had notified the Japanese government that it would launch a satellite sometime between May 31 and June 11. Tokyo had demanded that the launch be canceled, but Pyongyang forced through the launch on the first day of the notification period.

North Korea’s launches using ballistic missile technology have been prohibited by U.N. Security Council resolutions. Since rocket and ballistic missile technology are basically the same, this is a clear violation of the resolutions. This cannot be justified by the claim of a “satellite launch.”

This launch is closely related to the development of technology for an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that could reach the U.S. mainland from North Korea. This is because the technology to improve the performance of rocket engines and fuel and to launch satellites into space orbit can also be applied to ICBMs.

When North Korea had conducted a total of five launches by 2016, calling them “satellite launches,” it stressed that they were for civilian purposes. This time, however, it has clearly mentioned a military objective, which is to track the military activities of the United States and other countries in real time.

If North Korea’s efforts regarding ICBMs or military reconnaissance satellites are successful, that would pose a major threat to Japan, the United States and South Korea.

North Korea has stated that it will launch another satellite at an early date. International pressure must be intensified to prevent this.

The Security Council must condemn the launch this time and strengthen sanctions against North Korea. The fact that China and Russia, permanent members of the Security Council, have blocked additional sanctions may embolden North Korea. China and Russia should change their views.

Immediately after the latest launch, the Japanese government issued an emergency warning with the J-Alert nationwide early warning system to Okinawa Prefecture. It is noteworthy that the system functioned generally smoothly, without the major confusion seen with past launches.

In order to quickly and accurately grasp data on North Korean missiles and enhance its ability to defend against missiles and disseminate information to the public, Japan intends to immediately share such information with South Korea through the United States. It is hoped that talks on the matter will be accelerated so that the system can be put into operation as soon as possible.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 1, 2023)