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Editorial: Stop DPRK’s inexorable march toward self-destruction

North Korea reiterated to the world that it has no intention to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs when it launched an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) towards Japan, which splashed down in the Sea of Japan inside its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) around 250km west of Aomori Prefecture after traveling about 1,000km.


Japan must do everything within its power, along with the U.S. and the international community to stop Pyongyang from completing its nuclear missile program.


All necessary means must be exhausted to this end. Japan must take concrete action beyond verbal commitments to further boost cooperation and form a united front, as it does not have the luxury of time.


Dialogue without pressure inadequate


North Korea’s latest ICBM test drew condemnation from world leaders for violating the U.N. Security Council resolutions and disturbing world peace. The DPRK has not retreated from its path to self-destruction despite harsh sanctions. More needs to be done to bring the North to talks.


The ICBM is said to have been launched on a “lofted” trajectory, soaring to a high altitude exceeding 4,500 km. It is thought to be capable of traveling more than 13,000 km on a normal trajectory. Pyongyang has announced that it “now has the entire United States within range,” and that “it can attach a large-scale nuclear device.”


Although North Korea announced that it had completed its goal of becoming a nuclear state, we cannot accept this statement at face value. While it is one thing to have the whole of America within range, it is a whole other matter to have nuclear attack capabilities.


There are several technical issues to settle for an ICBM to survive the incredible heat of 7,000 degrees when reentering the Earth’s atmosphere and detonating at a set location. While the North declared that it has overcome these issues in its test in July, both the Japanese and U.S. governments remain skeptical. In addition, investigations are ongoing in the latest test launch.


Regardless, it is a fact that the DPRK is continuing to advance its technological development. It will complete its nuclear attack capability targeting the U.S. if left to its own devices. The nuclear umbrella that the U.S. extends to both Japan and South Korea may no longer function as an effective deterrence.


Two and a half months have passed since the North’s last ballistic missile launch. A lot has happened since then, including President Trump’s historic tour of Asia, three U.S. Navy aircraft carriers training in the Sea of Japan, and China’s Communist Party Congress.


While the hiatus lead some optimists to believe that Pyongyang has softened its stance, it turned out to be the opposite case. Foreign Minister Taro Kono was correct in saying that Pyongyang had spent the past two months “steadily preparing for the next missile launch,” laying bare the “absence of any intention to stop” its military provocations.


The only way is to continue to apply maximum economic and military pressure to a regime such as Kim’s.


Some critics are vocal about how Pyongyang may “explode” if outside forces including Japan and the U.S. heighten pressure, but this is an absurd point of view that will only please the dictatorship. We must avoid emotional responses at all costs.


North Korea’s nuclear weapons program cannot be stopped without strong sanctions. Prime Minister Abe is correct in stating before the Diet, “If we back down to avoid their becoming reckless, that would be exactly what they want.”


Mandating ship inspections


The ICBM launch was a direct challenge to UN sanctions and the Trump administration’s relisting North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. Although Japan has been calling on other nations to comply with UN Security Council’s resolutions, more needs to be done. Reckless acts of violence must be met with harsher penalties. Japan should propose a sanction to limit all oil supplies to Pyongyang.


U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement that intercepting ships carrying goods to and from North Korea is a possible additional economic sanction.


Although Japan would be expected to play a vital role in implementing this new sanction as a neighboring country, it would not be able to contribute much due to flaws in the Ship Inspection Operations Act. Under the current law, neither the Maritime Self-Defense Force nor the Coast Guards can board and inspect an suspicious ships if the captain of the vessel refuses. This means Japan will not be able to fulfill its responsibility as a UN member state if the Security Council imposes a sea blockade.


The government, ruling and opposition parties must revise regulations in the current Diet session to enable our nation to respond as flexibly as other member states in the event of a blockade. Expedient actions are necessary to protect the Japanese people from North Korean nuclear threats.


Tillerson also says the US and Canada will convene a meeting of countries that sent troops to the UN Command during the Korean War, as well as Japan, to discuss how to deal with the threat.


A UN Command-Rear is established at Yokota Air Base, Tokyo, and UN signatories are permitted to use the base under the Status of Forces Agreement with Japan. This is another reason Japan must make efforts to cooperate with the international community


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