[Editorial] Response to NK missiles

By Korea Herald

South must strengthen deterrence and alliance; China should act to stop provocations

  • Published : Jul 31, 2017 - 17:35
  • Updated : Jul 31, 2017 - 17:37
North Korea’s launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile on July 28 is misguided behavior which will only cause tighter sanctions and backfire on its goals.

The reasons for the North to keep developing ICBMs are obvious.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un thinks he can make Washington hesitate to intervene in crises on the Korean Peninsula by threatening the US with nuclear missiles.

His ultimate intention is to break the US-South Korea alliance and make Washington back off from Korean issues.

But they are all misjudgments.

In response to the missile launch, President Moon Jae-in ordered the deployment of four additional launchers of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense antimissile system and the request for negotiations with the US to build up the South’s missile capabilities.

The US sent two B-1B strategic bombers to train over the Korean Peninsula.

These decisions are designed to show determination to deal sternly with North Korean threats. The US and South Korea must continue to show that any threat from the North will go nowhere.

Only in view of the flight distance of the missile, North Korea crossed the “red line” which Washington has warned it off.

The US Congress has passed a law enabling the executive branch to ban other countries from selling crude oil and petroleum products to the North.

The North’s repeated provocations will only weaken the positions of China and Russia, which have taken its side, and will give momentum to calls for tighter sanctions.

The South needs to show a resolute response, too.

Moon’s orders to deploy additional THAAD launchers and request the US approval for beefing up South Korean missile capabilities were appropriate and timely.

His order to seek South Korea’s own sanctions -- though their effectiveness is questionable -- is meaningful in that he has kept pace with allies.

With the North escalating its threats to the “critical point,” there is no reason to postpone the full operation of the missile defense system.

In light of his proposals unveiled in Berlin early in July to restore inter-Korean ties, his responses are beyond expectations.

Still, he seems to have expectations that Pyongyang may accept his proposals.

Eventually, the problem of North Korean nukes and missiles should be solved peacefully, but the possibility of dialogue at present is near zero.

It is right to put the proposals aside for the time being.

Now is the time to maximize South Korea’s military deterrent and joint defense capabilities with the US.

Indecisiveness over the missile shield may shake trust between allies.

Further, Seoul needs consider asking the US to deploy more THAAD batteries.

The problem is China’s response.

Beijing criticized North Korea as usual, while strongly condemning the decision to install additional THAAD launchers. It is a two-faced attitude, which ignores South Korea’s concerns.

China should join the international community’s efforts to pressure the North. Siding with Pyongyang will only aggravate insecurity in Northeast Asia.

The North has been able to continue provocations as China has sat on its hands.

Chinese state media have argued that Beijing has no ability to stop North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

But it seems to be a lack of will, rather than ability.

China has been a lifeline to the North. Trade between the two countries increased 6.1 percent to $6.5 billion last year from a year earlier. China accounted for 92.5 percent of North Korea’s foreign trade.

China has jibbed at calls for the suspension of crude oil sales to the North, which is the sure way to paralyze it.

Resolving threats to regional peace is an obligation for a global power.

Not many options are left.

The Moon administration must hasten to deploy THAAD launchers and increasing the weight of missile warheads it can develop through negotiations with the US.

The US is positive to those moves.

As the South is seriously threatened, it should not waver over deploying the THAAD.

An airtight alliance and enhanced joint defense capabilities can keep peace.

The South must drive the message home that missile threats will only strengthen sanctions and the US alliance, instead of leading to direct negotiations with Washington and driving a wedge between allies.