N Korean missiles passing over Japan must not become routine

opinion September 18, 2017 01:00

By The Yomiuri Shimbun
Asia News Network

North Korea has fired a ballistic missile over the Japanese archipelago again. The missile flew over Hokkaido and fell into the Pacific Ocean about 2,200 kilometres east of Erimomisaki cape.

It is estimated to have reached a maximum altitude of about 800 kilometres and travelled about 3,700 kilometres. The missile was launched on a normal trajectory, not in a “lofted” style. The missile is highly likely to have been a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile, which was fired in late August and travelled the same route as the latest launch.

It is the 14th ballistic missile launch by North Korea this year. So far, a total of six missiles have passed over Japan. It is feared that this will become routine. It stands to reason that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe criticised Pyongyang’s act, saying: “We cannot tolerate it. If North Korea continues to progress on this path, it does not have a bright future.”

It is alarming that Pyongyang has flown a missile higher and further than the previous one, demonstrating its missile capability to reach the US territory of Guam, which lies about 3,400 kilometres from North Korea. The country is certain to trumpet its improved missile technology and escalate threats against the United States.

In response to North Korea’s nuclear test on September 3, the UN Security Council only recently adopted a new sanctions resolution imposing measures such as restricting oil supply. Pyongyang issued a statement vowing to punish Japan, which has backed the resolution, with a nuclear bomb.

Responding to the resolution – adopted unanimously by member states including China and Russia, which have been conciliatory to Pyongyang – with provocations is extremely unreasonable. The UN Security Council is scheduled to hold an emergency meeting at the request of Japan, the United States and South Korea. It is crucial to ensure the strict implementation of sanctions through a statement of condemnation and other steps.

The Japanese and US foreign and defence ministers held separate talks over the phone and agreed to ramp up pressure from the international community on North Korea. South Korean President Moon Jae-in has begun considering measures to reinforce its deterrence capability based on the US-South Korean alliance. Japan, the United States and South Korea are urged to strengthen their security cooperation further.

Japan also cannot fail to exercise caution against a missile possibly landing on Japanese territory or waters, as well as falling missile debris. The Defence Ministry is urged to continue to take all possible surveillance measures.

After the latest launch, the government issued warnings via the J-Alert system to 617 municipalities in 12 prefectures, sending out information on the launch of the missile and its flight over Japan.

As information sent after the previous missile launch fuelled “excessive fears”, the alert wording was revised, such as by specifying the areas that the missile flew over. This was an appropriate move.

However, after the latest launch, the warning system also had a series of problems, including failures in transmitting email alerts to registered residents in the Hokkaido cities of Noboribetsu and Abashiri, as well as other locations.

It is essential to thoroughly prevent similar mishaps and make efforts to swiftly and appropriately alert people.