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Editorial: North Korea’s upgraded ballistic missile technology must be dealt with

The threat posed to Japan by North Korea’s ballistic missiles has become ever more serious. The government must employ all possible means to ensure the safety of the people.


In response to North Korea’s almost-simultaneous firing of three ballistic missiles, the U.N. Security Council condemned the latest launches, expressing “serious concern” in a press statement.


North Korea has repeatedly fired ballistic missiles even after the council adopted a resolution to impose sanctions on Pyongyang in March. The council has issued seven non-binding statements criticizing Pyongyang’s violations of the council’s resolutions, but without tangible results. As things stand now, the council could lose its authority.


It is extremely important that Japan — a non-permanent member of the council — make the best use of the sanctions resolutions in close cooperation with the United States and explore ways to intensify pressure on North Korea.


North Korean state-run media reported the latest “drill” confirmed the “guided accuracy rate” of the missiles in striking their targets. While airing video images of the launches, the media trumpeted their success.


The launches may also have been aimed at enhancing the unifying power of Kim Jong Un, the chairman of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, in the run-up to the anniversary of the nation’s founding on Sept. 9.


The three missiles are believed to be either Rodong or Scud missiles. Defense Minister Tomomi Inada said: “[The missiles] were fired simultaneously and fell around the same area. This indicates that North Korea has indeed enhanced its missile capabilities.”


Japan’s system inadequate


The Japan-U.S. missile defense system comprises interceptor missiles carried by Aegis vessels and ground-to-air guided missiles.


It has been pointed out that the current posture, with only six Aegis ships in readiness, could not cope if multiple missiles were launched against Japan simultaneously. The current intercept preparedness must be urgently examined and reinforced.


Not to be overlooked is that North Korea, following the firing of Rodong missiles early last month, launched the missiles without notification, which fell into an area within Japan’s exclusive economic zone. The latest firings were extremely dangerous because they could have caused damage to such entities as fishing vessels.


The government must increase its vigilance against additional launches. Creation of a system to promptly convey missile-firing information to aircraft and vessels is vitally important.


Development by North Korea of a more accurate ballistic missile armed with a miniaturized nuclear warhead would pose an ever-more serious threat to the security of Asia.


U.S. President Barack Obama and his South Korean counterpart, Park Geun-hye, held talks in Laos and affirmed the need to deploy the most advanced U.S. missile defense system — the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense — to U.S. forces in South Korea.


China opposes the deployment. Yet it is absurd that Chinese President Xi Jinping, during his recent talks with Park, sought to pressure her by saying, “[the deployment] is not conducive to strategic stability in the region.” China is urged to wield its influence, first and foremost, to prevent North Korea from acting recklessly.

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