The International Community Must Intensify Pressure on Pyongyang

A situation must not be allowed in which North Korea possesses nuclear missiles capable of striking the U.S. mainland and intimidates Japan, the United States and South Korea. The international community must take this threat seriously and step up pressure on Pyongyang.

On July 12, North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) eastward from the outskirts of Pyongyang. It was launched at a high angle and on a lofted trajectory. After flying for about 74 minutes, the longest flight time of a North Korean missile, it fell into waters outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone off the western coast of Hokkaido.

It is believed to have reached a maximum altitude of more than 6,000 kilometers and covered a distance of about 1,000 kilometers. If fired at a normal angle, the missile would have a range of well over 10,000 kilometers, meaning the whole of the United States would be within range.

North Korea has announced that the missile was its new Hwasong-18. It was the second test launch Pyongyang has conducted since April. According to North Korean media, the missile notched “new records” for maximum altitude, flight distance and flight time.

Kim Jong Un, general secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, has ignored international condemnation and the destitution of North Korean citizens and is prioritizing the development of nuclear weapons capable of striking the United States. It is likely that through repeated test launches, he aims to improve the technology of the new ICBM, complete the development and deploy the missile at the earliest possible date.

The solid-fueled Hwasong-18, which does not require fueling immediately before launch, is more threatening than conventional liquid-fueled ICBMs. It would be difficult for the United States and South Korea to detect signs of a launch with reconnaissance satellites, making it more difficult to prevent the launch.

In the first place, it is a problem that although North Korea’s ballistic missile launches violate U.N. Security Council resolutions, they have been left unaddressed. The UNSC should be issuing resolutions to sanction or condemn acts that violate its resolutions, but the function of the council is paralyzed.

The responsibility lies with China and Russia, permanent members of the Security Council. The fact that both countries have used their veto power to block additional sanctions and other measures against North Korea has emboldened Pyongyang. China and Russia have, in effect, abandoned their responsibility to protect the international order.

Japan, the United States and South Korea must hasten efforts to enhance their deterrence and enlist cooperation from as many countries as possible to ensure that sanctions against North Korea are thoroughly enforced and that moves to impose additional sanctions spread.

As well as problems concerning nuclear weapons and missiles, another serious issue exists between Japan and North Korea — the abductions of Japanese nationals. In May, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced his intention to hold “high-level talks under the direct supervision of the prime minister” to resolve the abduction issue.

At one stage, North Korea hinted at the possibility of dialogue, but there is no indication it will refrain from outrageous acts. Under such circumstances, even if Japan and North Korea engage in dialogue, it is unlikely that a level of trust will be built or that results will be achieved.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 15, 2023)