It can be described as a military provocation to sway the United States, which is urging complete denuclearization of North Korea. The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has to deal with the matter with a firm attitude, without being misled by North Korea’s tactics.
North Korea has announced that it held drills to fire “tactical guided weapons” and “long-range rocket launchers” toward the Sea of Japan. It was reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw the drills.
This cannot be overlooked, as it was an act to raise military tensions in the region.
Experts have said the “guided weapons” may have been a new type of short-range ballistic missile. North Korea’s firing of ballistic missiles is banned under U.N. Security Council sanctions resolutions. Countries concerned must work together quickly to elucidate the whole picture.
The U.S.-North Korea summit talks in February ended without an agreement as North Korea sought lifting of sanctions while the United States urged complete denuclearization. Pyongyang has continued to place the blame on Washington.
Kim appears to be using a phased escalation of military provocations to try to press the U.S. president to hold a third round of summit talks.
In the military deal concluded along with the summit talks between North and South Korea last September, the two countries agreed “to cease all hostile acts against each other.” The latest drills clearly run against this agreement, which aims to ease tensions.
‘Seize every opportunity’
Saying the flight paths were short, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo emphasized that the projectiles “didn’t present a threat to the United States, or to South Korea or Japan.” But given the fact that North Korea can attack South Korea with short-range weapons, the remarks are questionable.
Trump also displayed an optimistic stance over reaching an agreement for denuclearization, tweeting that Kim “does not want to break his promise to me.”
The issue is that North Korea continues to flaunt its military power even after the United States and South Korea canceled the annual large-scale joint military exercises that they have held in spring. The United States and South Korea are urged to maintain the allies’ rapid response capabilities so that deterrence against North Korea will not decline.
Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held phone talks to coordinate responses to North Korea. Japan and the United States must strengthen their cooperation to tenaciously seek North Korea abandoning its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
After the phone talks, Abe expressed his intention to realize Japan-North Korea summit talks without prerequisites, saying, “I will try to seize every opportunity.”
An intention to meet directly is understandable for moving forward on the issue of the abductions of Japanese by North Korea. The leaders of the United States, China, South Korea and Russia have already met with Kim.
Amid the fact that progress toward denuclearization has stagnated, it is not easy to improve Japan-North Korea relations. But ways to move toward dialogue must be explored.