North Korea's latest nuclear test on Sept. 3 has raised serious concerns that the crisis over the Korean Peninsula could get out of control.
Analysis of the seismic wave generated by the test has shown that the scale of the explosion was more than five times that of the previous one. Pyongyang has announced that it was an experiment of a hydrogen bomb to be loaded onto an intercontinental ballistic missile.
The country's sixth nuclear test, which came only five days after it launched a missile that flew over Japan before plunging into the Pacific Ocean, has demonstrated Pyongyang's firm determination to further heighten the level of crisis.
North Korea is undoubtedly aiming to draw the United States into direct negotiations under conditions favorable to Pyongyang and receive Washington's guarantee for the continuation of North Korea's regime.
The United States will never tolerate North Korea's acquisition of the capability to attack the continental U.S. with nuclear weapons. The United States will further increase its military pressure on North Korea, and Pyongyang will counter such a move, possibly leading to an explosive situation.
An armed conflict that would cause serious damage to all of Northeast Asia must be averted by all means.
In response to North Korea's latest nuclear test, Washington will highly likely demand that the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) impose stricter sanctions on Pyongyang.
Sanctions that are adopted at the UNSC are significant in showing the international community's firm determination. Attention is now focused on whether China will agree to suspend its exports of oil to North Korea, but Beijing will highly unlikely agree to do so over fears that such a measure could spur Pyongyang to take reckless actions or lead to the collapse of the North's regime. Russia will also certainly side with China.
Since the interests of concerned countries are conflicting with each other, it is no easy task to form a consensus on a response to Pyongyang's latest nuclear test at the UNSC. Such a discord will only allow enough time for North Korea to consider fresh provocative acts. Thus, the international community should swiftly consider ways to prevent tensions from rising further.
The Mainichi Shimbun has proposed that Japan, the United States, South Korea, China and Russia -- countries that have vested interests in the North Korean situation -- hold five-party talks. No country would benefit from an armed conflict between the United States and North Korea. Therefore, there ought to be enough room for cooperation between these countries in managing risks involving North Korea.
All the countries surrounding North Korea are major economic and military powers, and have a responsibility for the entire region. To prevent a nightmare scenario from becoming a reality, these countries must make every effort to contain the crisis.
Japan and South Korea are exposed to the most serious threat posed by North Korea. Japan should show determination to play a leading role in seeking a diplomatic solution to the crisis.