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Editorial: Int'l community must block N. Korea from regularly launching missiles

North Korea has once again launched a ballistic missile, which flew over Hokkaido before plunging into the Pacific Ocean east of Cape Erimo on Sept. 15.

The government issued a J-alert emergency warning across 12 prefectures, including Hokkaido and other prefectures in the Tohoku region in northeastern Honshu, urging residents to take shelter.

The missile flew about 3,700 kilometers, demonstrating that North Korea is capable of hitting Guam with its missiles. Pyongyang's missile technology is steadily advancing, posing a growing threat to Japan and the United States.

The U.N. Security Council (UNSC) adopted a new resolution, stiffing its sanctions on North Korea following the country's sixth nuclear test. Pyongyang apparently launched the missile in response to the new resolution.

After the resolution was adopted, North Korea condemned the United States for "committing a vicious state-sponsored terror crime again." North Korea also said Japan "should be sunk into the sea with nuclear bombs."

However, it is North Korea that has been violating UNSC resolutions adopted by the international community and ignoring international law.

What is worrisome is that North Korea could launch missiles over Japan on a regular basis.

North Korea's latest launch was believed to be of a medium-range Hwasong-12, the same type as one that Pyongyang test-fired last month. This time North Korea launched the missile on an ordinary trajectory just like last time, on the assumption that the missile will be used in actual warfare.

In July, North Korea launched two Hwasong-14 missiles -- intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) with the continental U.S. within their range -- on lofted trajectories.

Since the Hwasong-14 is believed to use Hwasong-12's engine, the latest launch of the Hwasong-12 may have been aimed at testing its performance with the aim of developing an ICBM that can be used in actual warfare.

It is necessary to repeatedly test missiles on ordinary trajectories in order to exmine their performance before using ICBMs in actual warfare. The vast Pacific Ocean is the only area where such a test can be conducted.

After test-firing a missile last month, North Korea declared that it would conduct numerous other drills launching ballistic missiles toward the Pacific Ocean to field such weapons in actual warfare.

If the Pacific Ocean were to be turned into a permanent missile testing site, missiles would regularly fly over Japan and threaten the safety of aircraft and vessels in the area. Such a situation threatening the safety of people's lives could never be tolerated.

There have been calls within the international community for Japan and the United States to beef up their military response to the situation and upgrade their defense capabilities. The risk of an armed conflict accidentally breaking out will increase if tensions heighten.

North Korea is advancing technology to load nuclear weapons onto its ICBMs. If Pyongyang were to deploy nuclear-armed ICBMs, it would pose a serious threat to the whole world.

To avoid such a situation, the international community should strengthen its unity to pressure North Korea to change its attitude.

The UNSC should reconfirm whether its past resolutions have been implemented in an effective way.

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