North Korea’s nuclear missile threat to the US is looming as a reality.
If the missile the North launched Wednesday had flown on a standard trajectory rather than its lofted one, it would have a range of more than 13,000 kilometers, according to experts. The range would be far enough to reach Washington DC and in fact any part of the US.
It is not difficult to guess the intention behind launching a long-range ballistic missile after a 75-day lull. The launch is an expression of the North’s will to complete its nuclear missile programs at any cost.
But it is too early to accept the North’s claim that it has developed an intercontinental ballistic missile that is capable of striking any part of the US successfully. Other technical issues, such as re-entry into the atmosphere and nuclear warhead payload, have not been verified yet.
Experts say atmospheric re-entry can be verified only when a missile is launched at a normal angle. Therefore, the North is expected to conduct more missile launches sooner or later to solve these technical problems. It is wise to prepare responses to further provocations.
Behind the latest missile test there also seems to be the intention to induce change in US policy on the North by showing off its ability to fire a missile toward the eastern part of the US. But Pyongyang had better not expect change. US President Donald Trump said the missile launch would not alter the US policy of putting “maximum pressure” on Pyongyang.
As the North has resumed testing a ballistic missile, stronger sanctions and pressure look inevitable.
This time, sanctions must be raised enough to shake the Kim Jong-un regime and threaten its survival.
Kim will likely keep escalating tension by responding to sanctions and pressure with further provocations and threats.
The international community, including the United Nations, should tighten sanctions to the extent that the Kim regime cannot help but suspend its nuclear and missile programs. A full blockade including a ban on oil supply to the North is needed.
The international community should fall into line to raise the effectiveness of blockading the communist state. All its members ought to cut their diplomatic and trade ties with the North and banish their immigrant laborers.
Among others, China and Russia, two neighbors bordering the North, are required to do more to seal off the North.
The long letup in provocations had raised expectation in the South that it might be able to foster an atmosphere for inter-Korean dialogue if the North accepts its proposal to participate in the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games. The North has not responded to the offer yet. However, considering its participation in athletic games of the past held in the South, there is little chance that its participation in the PyeongChang Olympics would lead to the dialogue the South wants.
The latest provocation has put to shame the South’s efforts to hold talks with the North while going along with sanctions on the communist state.
An armed clash on the Korean Peninsula must be prevented in any circumstance. The only realistic way to do that while deterring the North from further provocations is pressure from all directions that will bring the Kim regime to a standstill. The South must make diplomatic efforts with the US and Japan to get China and Russia to squeeze Pyongyang.
Kim refused to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s special envoy during his recent visit to Pyongyang.
Kim has effectively ignored Beijing’s proposed solution to the North Korea issue, which calls for the North to stop its nuclear and missile tests and at the same time for the US and South Korea to stop their joint military drills.
North Korea is getting out of China’s control and influence.
Now is the time for Beijing to consider the future of the Kim regime seriously.