Tensions on Korean Peninsula: Strengthened Cooperation between Japan, U.S., South Korea Essential

Tensions are rising between South Korea and North Korea. Responsibility lies with Pyongyang for daring to launch a military reconnaissance satellite. Japan, the United States and South Korea must deepen cooperation to strengthen deterrence.

North Korea has announced that it has effectively reneged on a 2018 military agreement with South Korea and will “immediately restore all military measures.”

The agreement included a ban on live-fire drills near the military demarcation line and the removal of border guard posts from the demilitarized zone as measures to prevent accidental clashes.

North Korea has reportedly reinstalled border guard posts in the demilitarized zone and redeployed soldiers and heavy weapons. On the Yellow Sea side of the western Korean Peninsula, North Korea has opened an increasing number of artillery gates. There is a possibility that the North will make further provocations in the name of artillery drills.

As a countermeasure against North Korea’s launch of a reconnaissance satellite in late November, South Korea has resumed reconnaissance flights near the military demarcation line, which had been suspended since the 2018 agreement. North Korea is using this as an excuse to justify its scrapping of the agreement. This is extremely unreasonable.

For North Korea to launch even a satellite using ballistic missile technology is a violation of U.N. Security Council sanctions resolutions against the country. It is unacceptable for North Korea to heighten tensions in the region with its self-righteous assertions and actions.

The Security Council held an emergency meeting, but again failed to formulate a concerted response. North Korea insisted that the launch was a legitimate exercise of its right to self-defense, and China and Russia agreed with that claim. The current situation in which the Security Council cannot even issue a statement of condemnation is problematic.

China and Russia should recognize that their own irresponsible responses have allowed North Korea to get carried away.

North Korea has announced that its leader Kim Jong Un, the general secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, has seen photos of areas such as U.S. military bases in Japan and South Korea that were taken by the reconnaissance satellite. The country may have wanted to demonstrate its ability to both monitor the movements of U.S. and South Korean forces and Japan’s Self-Defense Forces from space and to attack them.

However, the photos have not been made public. It is widely believed that Pyongyang wants to avoid exposing photos that have a low resolution.

Although a single satellite alone will not immediately enhance reconnaissance capabilities, Kim Jong Un’s regime has said that it plans to launch several more satellites as soon as possible. It is certain that North Korea has accumulated satellite technology through its experiences, even with the failed launches in May and August. This should not be underestimated.

While South Korea announced at an early stage that the satellite had entered Earth orbit, Japan was slow to confirm this.

Japan, the United States and South Korea plan to put into full-scale operation by the end of this year a system for the immediate sharing of information about North Korean missiles. The system must operate smoothly to reduce such discrepancies.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 10, 2023)