North Korea has yet again launched a ballistic missile. This act only serves to heighten the tension hanging over the Korean Peninsula and is impermissible.
The missile is said to have exploded in the air several minutes after liftoff. It was the third launch by North Korea in April. All three launches are thought to have failed, yet they cannot be ignored, as amid these failures, Pyongyang is racing to develop a new type of missile.
The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has described North Korea's development of nuclear weapons as a priority issue in its foreign policy, and the latest launch came at a time when that U.S. was trying to increase pressure on North Korea.
Several hours before the launch, a special ministerial meeting of the United Nations Security Council was called to discuss the North Korean situation. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned that "the threat of a North Korean nuclear attack on Seoul, or Tokyo, is real." He added that it was "likely only a matter of time before North Korea develops the capability to strike the U.S. mainland."
The reason the U.S. is taking a tougher stance against North Korea is based on the perception that a crisis is approaching the U.S. mainland.
New policy toward North Korea that the Trump administration presented to legislators from the Senate and House of Representatives attempts to draw Pyongyang to the negotiation table by stepping up military and diplomatic pressure to the greatest extent possible. The move by the U.S. to dispatch an aircraft carrier to the area around the Korean Peninsula and have it take part in joint drills with Japan and South Korea is a means of applying strong pressure.
In Pyongyang, the price of gasoline has begun to soar. It is believed that this could be because North Korean authorities are increasing their reserves of gasoline in preparation for the possibility of China halting its supply of crude oil, and have restricted supplies in cities.
China has adopted a more forward-looking stance compared with in the past, but still at the U.N. Security Council meeting, there was a gap in the level of enthusiasm between the trio of Japan, the United States and South Korea, and China and Russia. Japan should work with the United States to further persuade China and Russia.
Following reports of the missile launches, some railway services in Tokyo, including services operated by Tokyo Metro, were briefly halted. However, other railway companies continued operations as normal, as their standard for judgment is the government's J-Alert national emergency warning system.
North Korea's missile launch came early in the morning on a public holiday in Japan, but if railways had halted their services on a week day, it probably would have had a major impact on commuters. It is necessary to prepare for emergencies, but overreacting could result in confusion. We hope that public transport operators will work out their responses with caution.