Editorial: North Korea’s Missile Launch and its Test for Regional Cooperation

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Just as the leaders of Japan and the United States were meeting to reaffirm their alliance, North Korea launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Donald Trump then held an impromptu press conference where they strongly condemned the launch and confirmed that their two countries would cooperate in their response.

 

A joint declaration from the two leaders has yet again demanded an end to North Korea’s further development of nuclear and missile technology. The United States and Japan have promised anew to strengthen their alliance. Based on that resolution, will they move to prevent further belligerence from North Korea? This will soon be put to the test.

 

The Obama administration took an approach of “strategic patience,” and avoided direct communication with North Korea. However, in that time North Korea continued developing nuclear weapons technology. And so, we wonder how President Trump will approach this problem.

 

North Korea is likely preparing to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). With the planned U.S.-ROK joint military exercises in March, the chances of further provocation will increase.

 

The fact that Secretary of Defense James Mattis chose to visit Japan and South Korea for his first overseas suggests that the new administration recognizes the strained situation in the region. President Trump also made a strong statement at the February 11 press conference that “the United States stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100 percent.” The situation now calls for a concrete plan.

 

The three nations, including South Korea, must quickly strengthen their missile defense capabilities and authorities from all three must reopen joint consultation. The sanctions adopted by the UN Security Council in November of last year, with their strict measures, must be extended. It is also important to stop China from allowing any loopholes. Although President Trump is doubtful of the UN’s effectiveness and disdains multilateral negotiations, we hope he will commit to aid in creating a tight net around North Korea to prevent its further development of nuclear and missile technology.

 

Japan has many of its own issues to deal with. Hasn’t the time come to introduce the ability to launch preemptive strikes in order to maintain our self-defense? We also need to start concrete discussions on adding necessary equipment, like unmanned aircraft, to investigate targets or electronic warfare technology to override air defense radar. The legislature must accept its responsibility in protecting our citizens.

 

North Korea is likely just measuring the reaction of the new Trump administration. But firing missiles into the coastal waters of another country to attract attention from the international community is inexcusable. Japan, the United States, and South Korea must solidify and deepen their cooperation to contain this threat.

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