Editorial: International community must unite to stop North Korean provocation

The “projectile” launched by North Korea has passed over Japan. Though it claims this “projectile” was a communications satellite, it is believed that North Korea actually test-fired a long-range ballistic missile that could reach the U.S. mainland.

This act poses an unacceptable threat not only to Japan but to the entire world. That the Japanese government requested the United Nations Security Council to convene an emergency session is a matter of course. Japan must work together with the United States and South Korea in appealing to the international community to create an environment capable of persuading North Korea that it will lose more than it can gain by developing missiles.

Immediately after the launch, the Japanese government obtained the information and communicated it to local governments and other relevant organizations without errors, as had occurred the day before when false reports were passed on. Although there was no direct damage to Japanese territory, we are deeply concerned about two points:

First, North Korea, in gaining another negotiating card, will adopt a stronger posture.

North Korea’s usual tactics involve escalating its arms buildup then trying to elicit benefits in return for reducing its weapons. If its missiles can now carry nuclear warheads, the nation holds a more powerful hand in its negotiations with the United States.

The foremost intention of Kim Jong Il is to maintain his dictatorship and to win economic aid, including food and oil, in order to support his regime. At the same time, he may demand that U.S. forces withdraw from South Korea. Whatever the content of the negotiations, North Korea will surely attempt to solicit more concessions than it did in the past.

A second concern is the transfer of missile technology to other countries. North Korea is believed to have exported its missile technology to Iran and Pakistan. If advanced missile technology is obtained by nuclear weapon states or countries seeking to develop nuclear arms, tension will grow among their neighbors.

The international community must be resolute in not permitting North Korea to gain advantage from such actions. So as not to condone this conduct, the members of the six-party talks must first seek a unified response at the Security Council meeting.

Japan, the United States, and South Korea are taking a firm stance, saying that North Korea’s conduct was a provocation against the Security Council resolution that prohibits missile-related activities by North Korea. They plan to submit a new resolution that includes measures to effectively address this action. China and Russia, however, seem reluctant to pursue such a course.

Japan must continue to make efforts to discuss this matter with China and Russia, but in this situation, we expect President Obama to exercise leadership. We believe that the United States cannot afford to overlook the dangers of North Korean missiles reaching its territory or the transfer of missile technology to Iran.

The missile launch has also raised the issue of Japan’s defense. The way the Japanese leadership reacted to this matter makes us wonder if the government has used this opportunity to advocate the need for a missile defense (MD) system to the people of Japan.

Many citizens may have thought, “Japan needs a missile defense system to protect itself from the threats of North Korea.” The MD system, however, is still incomplete and would require an enormous outlay to purchase from the United States. Even then, improving its accuracy would necessitate additional expense.

In the midst of an economic recession, Japan must expand its domestic spending. Would an MD system be worth the colossal cost? Would it heighten tensions in East Asia? Prudent discussions must be held in view of these concerns.

(Originally published on April 6, 2009)

Related articles
N. Korea launches "satellite" despite international pressure (April 6, 2009)