North Korea on Nov. 29 test-fired a ballistic missile again, ending two and a half months of refraining from taking such provocative actions related to its development of weapons of mass destruction.
It is an outrageous act that has dashed the faint hopes that arose during the period for freezing Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.
In a natural response to the latest missile firing by the secluded regime, Japan, the United States and South Korea have demanded an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council.
The international community should not weaken its resolve not to tolerate such egregious behavior by the country. All members of the United Nations should respond to the North Korean action with greater solidarity.
The missile is estimated to have reached an altitude of around 4,500 kilometers, according to the South Korean and U.S. militaries. Experts say the missile has the potential to fly as far as the east coast of the United States, including Washington.
If North Korea has indeed developed an intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach all of the U.S. mainland, that would mean Pyongyang’s military technology development has entered a very dangerous stage.
But there are still many unanswered questions regarding Pyongyang’s missile program, including whether it has secured vital re-entry technology.
The country’s latest missile firing, however, has strongly underscored North Korea’s unwavering determination to continue pursuing military capabilities for attacks on any part of the continental United States.
The international community is grappling with the formidable challenge of finding an effective way to make North Korea change its mind.
It is difficult to fathom the implications of the two and a half months without any North Korean missile launch.
The United States has been stepping up its pressure on Pyongyang through various actions, including deploying three aircraft carriers to areas close to the country.
It is possible that North Korea may have just spent more time preparing for the latest missile launch to ensure its success.
During the period, a flurry of diplomatic events took place around North Korea, including U.S. President Donald Trump’s meetings with national leaders during his Asian tour and a Chinese envoy’s visit to Pyongyang.
There is little doubt that Pyongyang closely monitored these events while working out plans for its future actions.
The effects of U.N. sanctions will be increasingly felt by North Korea, delivering a serious blow to its dilapidated economy in the coming weeks and months.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has recently toured various parts of his nation to inspect and instruct manufacturing plants and other sites of economic activity. He may have tried to prepare the people for the harsh effects of the economic sanctions.
Reporting on the missile firing on Nov. 29, North Korean media said the country has “realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force, the cause of building a rocket power.”
In contrast to such bombastic rhetoric, however, the regime chose a trajectory apparently aimed at limiting the missile’s horizontal flight distance.
This seems to indicate that the Kim regime is seeking to boast progress in its missile program to the domestic audience while avoiding a military conflict with the United States.
Tokyo, Washington and Seoul should use all diplomatic means and channels available to resolve the situation while carefully assessing North Korea’s intentions and strategy.
In a recent interview with The Asahi Shimbun, former U.S. Secretary of Defense William J. Perry, who helped resolve the 1994 crisis on the Korean Peninsula, said there is no viable military option to deal with the current situation concerning North Korea’s weapons programs.
“If we insist on getting the results from the negotiations before going into the negotiations, we’ll never get negotiations,” he said.
In addition to strictly implementing the U.N. sanctions, the three governments should seek a realistic formula for talks with Pyongyang while coordinating their diplomatic efforts with China and Russia.
This is a challenge that will sorely test their diplomatic prowess.