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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Oct. 6)

All News 07:00 October 06, 2022

Stop provocations
: Stern action needed to keep North Korea in check

North Korea launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) Tuesday that soared over Japan before landing in the Pacific Ocean. The missile flew 4,500 kilometers, farther than ever before, prompting Japan to issue evacuation warnings for some residents and suspend partial train services. It marked the first time in five years that Pyongyang fired a missile above the Japanese archipelago, heightening military tensions on the Korean Peninsula and in East Asia.

The North's move triggered fierce reactions from the international community. For starters, U.S. President Joe Biden had a phone call with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, strongly condemning the North for posing a threat to the Japanese people. President Yoon Suk-yeol also said the North's "reckless provocation" will end up facing determined responses. The U.S. called on the U.N. Security Council to meet to discuss the issue. Yet China and Russia are against the move.

South Korea and the U.S. countered in unison, firing ground-to-ground ballistic missiles into the East Sea. The Joint Chiefs of Staff said Wednesday that the drills "showed the ability and readiness to neutralize the origin of the provocation." On Tuesday, fighter jets of the two allies also conducted combined bombing drills in West Sea.

The JCS said the IRBM, presumably the same as the "Hwasong-12" type which the North already tested Jan. 30, flew at a terminal speed of Mach 17 to an altitude of 970 kilometers. With the longest flight range, the North's launch can pose a threat to U.S. bases in Japan and Guam.

The North apparently flexed its military muscle in defiance of the recent ROK-U.S.-Japan joint anti-submarine exercises. It also revealed its determination to continue to build up its missile and nuclear capabilities. North Korea conducted 23 missile launches this year, including nine since the May 10 inauguration of President Yoon Suk-yeol.

The recent launch is an apparent prelude to further provocations by Pyongyang, such as the test-firing of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and another nuclear test. The National Intelligence Service forecast earlier that the North may conduct its seventh nuclear test sometime between the Chinese Communist Party's Congress in mid-October and the U.S. midterm elections in early November.

The Ministry of National Defense warned against North Korea's possible provocations in the heavily-fortified border area after some South Korean activists recently flew anti-Pyongyang leaflets into the North. Seoul and Washington should take more proactive steps to prevent the tense security situation on the peninsula from aggravating. On the other hand, they should double down on inducing the recalcitrant North to hold talks.

North Korea, for its part, should refrain from making further provocations. It should adopt more prudent and discreet approaches to cope with the rapidly changing international circumstances. It needs to recognize its launches of missiles over Japan will only stimulate Tokyo to become more desperate to strengthen its military prowess.

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