North Korea risks closing door to dialogue

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
This picture taken on Wednesday and released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Thursday shows a test firing drill of a railway-borne missile regiment. STR/KCNA VIA KNS/afp

This is a series of military provocations by North Korea. The Japanese government must rationally analyse Pyongyang’s intentions and take measures to deal with the issue in cooperation with the US, South Korea and other countries concerned.

North Korea has fired at least two ballistic missiles toward the Sea of Japan. They appear to have fallen inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone after following irregular trajectories. The Japanese government must verify whether its detection and other measures were sufficient.

UN Security Council resolutions ban North Korea from firing ballistic missiles, and these launches are a clear violation. It is only natural for Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to have criticised the launches as “outrageous, a threat to the peace and security of our country and the region”.

North Korea just announced on September 13 that it had successfully test-fired a new long-range cruise missile capable of reaching Japan. Since launching short-range ballistic missiles in March this year, North Korea had refrained from making any conspicuous provocations. Do its recent moves mean that Pyongyang has changed its tactics to increase tensions?

There are concerns that in the future, North Korea will go so far as to test-fire ballistic missiles with a longer range or submarine-launched ballistic missiles, escalating the situation. It is essential for Japan, the US and South Korea to strengthen their readiness for surveillance.

North Korea’s aim is to lift economic sanctions through dialogue with the US while retaining its nuclear and missile programmes. Pyongyang seems to believe it can gain the upper hand in negotiations with the US through a military buildup and demonstrations. This is the same wishful thinking as ever.

The administration of US President Joe Biden has told North Korea that Washington is ready to unconditionally hold working-level talks. The administration of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un should be aware that military provocations would only result in North Korea itself closing the door to dialogue and the lifting of sanctions.

The US has also been forced to focus on its foreign policies regarding China and respond to sudden changes in the situation in Afghanistan. It is true that the priority of the North Korean issue has been lowered, but the US must not leave unattended a situation that could destabilise East Asia.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has said there have been signs that North Korea has restarted its nuclear reactors. There is also an urgent need to deal with its nuclear threat.

Japan, the US and South Korea have confirmed their close cooperation for the complete denuclearisation of North Korea during talks among high-ranking officials in Tokyo. The three countries need to once again coordinate their policies and come up with clear strategies in light of Pyongyang’s repeated provocations.

As long as North Korea continues its nuclear and missile development, it is necessary to consider strengthening sanctions. Japan should also urge China and Russia, via the UN Security Council, to take new steps.

China, which has influence over North Korea, must fulfill its responsibility as a major power by strictly implementing sanctions.