North Korea has once again launched a ballistic missile toward the Sea of Japan. The secluded state apparently is attempting to keep Japan and the United States, which agreed at their recent summit meeting to adopt a tough stance toward Pyongyang's nuclear weapons and missile development programs, in check.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe issued a joint statement with U.S. President Donald Trump in Florida on Feb. 11, condemning North Korea for its latest missile launch. It was appropriate that the two leaders send a unified message on the matter to North Korea as well as the international community.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un should immediately stop his reckless provocation that only contributes to crises in the world.
In their summit meeting, Prime Minister Abe and President Trump demanded that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons and missile development programs and agreed on the importance of cooperation between their two countries plus South Korea in dealing with Pyongyang.
Tokyo, Washington and Seoul requested that the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) convene an emergency meeting to respond to North Korea's provocative act. Pyongyang's launch of the ballistic missile clearly violates a UNSC resolution. Therefore, the council needs to adopt a tough stance toward the country.
North Korea has claimed that the missile was produced by extending the range of a submarine-launched ballistic missile the country launched in August 2016, and carried a solid-fuel rocket engine with a large output.
Pyongyang has indicated since the beginning of this year that it will test-fire an inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) targeting the U.S mainland. There is a possibility that the engine used for the missile North Korea launched recently was developed for an ICBM. If North Korea is to complete a long-range ballistic missile with a solid-fuel engine that can be launched after little preparation, the threat that North Korea poses to the world would heighten to a further alarming level.
When the U.S. administration of President Barack Obama was inaugurated eight years ago, then North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's regime test-fired a long-range ballistic missile and conducted a nuclear test. These moves were apparently aimed at deliberately creating a critical situation and convincing new U.S. administrations of the need to sit at the negotiation able with Pyongyang. There are fears that North Korea will escalate its provocation on the occasion of a U.S.-South Korea joint military exercise in South Korea next month.
The Trump government will spend the next several months on firming up its policy toward North Korea. What is important is to resolutely demonstrate its will to never tolerate North Korea's development of nuclear weapons and missiles.
A peaceful solution to the issue cannot be achieved unless Japan, the United States and South Korea and other countries join hands, even with China and Russia, to pressure North Korea. Amid such efforts, the United States should exercise strong leadership power.
The previous Obama government made a mistake when it adopted a passive stance toward North Korea. Over the past eight years, North Korea has steadily improved its nuclear and missile technologies. It is obviously only a matter of time before Pyongyang will complete development of its ICBM, posing a direct threat to the U.S. mainland.
The Japanese government should also join hands with South Korea, with which Tokyo shares interests, in urging the Trump government to have a sense of crisis over the North Korean situation.