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Editorial: N. Korea firing missile over Japan intolerable, reckless act / Intl community must guard against new threat

Another reckless act has been perpetrated, one that rattles the security of Japan and the region. To put the brakes on North Korea’s nuclear and missile development, the international community must present a united front and continue tenaciously exerting pressure on the country.


North Korea launched a ballistic missile to the northeast from a district of Pyongyang at a normal angle. The missile passed over the Oshima Peninsula and other areas of Hokkaido and fell into the Pacific Ocean about 1,180 kilometers east of Erimomisaki cape 14 minutes later. With its highest altitude at 550 kilometers, the missile flew about 2,700 kilometers.


False step to catastrophe


This is the first time that a North Korean missile has flown over the Japanese archipelago since February 2016 and the fifth time overall. There was advance notice of the last three previous launches, which Pyongyang claimed were “satellite launches.”


There is no doubt that the latest launch, made in the early morning and without advance notice, was aimed at demonstrating North Korea’s ability to carry out a surprise attack. Fortunately, there was no damage to any aircraft or vessels. But one false step could have brought about a great catastrophe. This can never be tolerated.


The government held a National Security Council meeting and discussed its response. It is reasonable that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe criticized the missile launch, saying it is “an unprecedented, serious and grave threat and greatly damages regional peace and security.” The government protested to Pyongyang immediately after the launch.


North Korea had recently announced a plan to launch a medium- and long-range Hwasong -12 ballistic missile into waters near the U.S. territory of Guam, making the situation very tense. Pyongyang may have tried to avoid having its missile intercepted by the United States by firing a Hwasong-12 ballistic missile toward Japan, rather than Guam.


Foreign Minister Taro Kono indicated his view that “North Korea has flinched a little.”


Assume more is to come


North Korea just recently fired short-range ballistic missiles, which pose a threat to South Korea. As U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises are to continue until Thursday, Pyongyang may intend to intensify its provocative actions toward Japan and South Korea and hold the United States in check.


North Korea will celebrate its national foundation day on Sept. 9. Precautions need to be taken against another missile launch or nuclear test.


The United States should make efforts to gather intelligence concerning North Korea’s military provocations in advance and continue demonstrating its firm intention to defend Japan and South Korea. It was appropriate that U.S. President Donald Trump held talks over the phone with Abe and said the United States “stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100 percent.”


“The Japanese and U.S. stances completely align with each other. Strong pressure must be exerted on North Korea to change its policies,” the prime minister said after telephone talks with Trump.


South Korean President Moon Jae In gave directions to demonstrate the capability of his nation’s military to retaliate, and held a bombing exercise involving F-15 fighter planes.


Japan, the United States and South Korea called for a U.N. Security Council emergency meeting. It is important for the Security Council to swiftly issue a statement condemning the latest missile launch and ensure that the sanctions imposed on North Korea are thoroughly carried out.


The United States has expanded the scope of its own financial sanctions on Chinese and Russian corporations that have business ties with the North. It is hoped that the United States will spearhead an endeavor to close a loophole in international efforts to hem in North Korea and cut off funds used for that country’s nuclear and missile development.


China, which is North Korea’s economic lifeline, must consider even stronger measures, such as restrictions on the oil supply to the North. It must be recognized that a changing situation in the Korean Peninsula will adversely affect China’s stability.


The Japanese government needs to make steady progress in reinforcing our nation’s missile defense.


To build a multi-layered intercept system, there is a pressing need to deploy the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) on an Aegis destroyer and an improved model of the ground-to-air Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) guided missile.


The number of missile-equipped Aegis destroyers will be increased from four to eight by fiscal 2020. It is hoped that this objective will be achieved without delay.


It is also essential to consider possessing the ability to attack missile bases on enemy land.


Conveying info vital


The Defense Ministry has conducted PAC-3 mobile deployment exercises at U.S. Yokota Air Base and Iwakuni Air Station, assuming ballistic missile launches by the North. This was the first time for such drills to be carried out at U.S. military bases in our nation. Displaying Japan-U.S. unity through joint exercises and other means will also serve as a deterrent to the North.


Through a nationwide instantaneous warning system, known as J-Alert, the government conveyed information about the latest missile launch to 617 cities, towns and villages in 12 prefectures.


There was a succession of problems in that process, including a case in which emergency municipal radio communication systems did not function in some local governments. All of this must be viewed as a problem. It is crucial to use every possible means to prevent a repeat, and thereby ensure that all pertinent municipalities are alerted.


In response to North Korea’s frequent missile launches, an increasing number of local governments are conducting evacuation drills in which local residents participate.


Making preparations for any unforeseen situation is not an overreaction. Efforts should be made so residents are fully aware of designated evacuation sites, while also confirming the necessary procedures in an emergency, such as quickly sheltering inside strong buildings in a nearby location.


The government has created a website and booklet related to the protection of the public. It is also important to offer even more detailed explanations to the public about how to defend themselves.

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