North Korea launches second rocket over Japan
The UN Security Council faces its own credibility challenge when it meets today to consider yet again how to halt North Korea’s nuclearisation, following the country’s longest missile launch yet that flew 3700km over Japan into the Pacific.
The Security Council passed its ninth round of economic sanc- tions against the Kim regime this week, after Pyongyang tested its sixth and by far biggest nuclear bomb.
North Korea responded to these new measures by firing an intermediate ballistic missile that climbed to 770km and could have reached US military bases on Guam.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last night condemned North Korea’s latest missile test, and said talks on the crisis would be held on the sidelines of the General Assembly meeting next week.
The launch from near Pyongyang caused the Japanese government to sound sirens, send text messages telling people to “flee into a building or a basement” and to break in to breakfast TV shows to warn those living in the south of the northern island of Hokkaido.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his country could “never tolerate” such a “dangerous, provocative action that threatens world peace.”
South Korea’s military immediately carried out its own ballistic missile drill, with the defence ministry saying it took place while the North’s rocket was still airborne. One of Seoul’s Hyunmu missiles travelled 250km into the Sea of Japan — a trajectory chosen to represent the distance to the North’s launch site at Sunan, near Pyongyang’s airport. But embarrassingly, another failed.
Malcolm Turnbull said the latest launch by Pyongyang showed dictator Kim Jong-un was feeling pressured by last month’s and this week’s Security Council sanctions.
“This is a sign, I believe of their frustration at the increased sanctions ... it is a sign that the sanctions are working and what we need to do is maintain the united global pressure on this rogue regime to bring it to its senses,” the Prime Minister said.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said the rogue nation had tested missiles that could potentially reach South Australia. “If you have now set off a hydrogen bomb and you have the capacity to miniaturise it to vaporise and murder millions and millions of people, the world is not going to stand idly by,” he said.
This claim was played down by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who said it was difficult to tell how far the North Korean missiles could travel. But she said the regime’s goal was to have a ballistic missile that could reach Australia.
Only two weeks ago, North Korea shot its first missile over Japan since 2009. On Thursday, just hours before the latest missile launch, the North Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee issued a statement about the Security Council and Japan, which colon- ised Korea from 1910 to 1945.
It described the Security Council as a “tool of evil” composed of “money-bribed” countries controlled by the US. It referred to Japan’s “never-to-be-condoned crimes against our people,” and said “the four islands of the archipelago should be sunk into the sea by the nuclear bomb of Juche (selfreliant Korea). Japan is no longer needed to exist near us.”
South Koreans, it said, were “traitors and dogs” of the US.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the nine rounds of sanctions agreed by the UN so far “represent the floor, not the ceiling, of the actions we should take”.
He said China and Russia “must indicate their intolerance for these reckless missile launches by taking direct actions of their own”. Mr Tillerson said China supplied North Korea with most of its oil, while Russia was the biggest employer of its “forced labour”.
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in, who had recently been rebuffed by Pyongyang after proposing a dual-track program of talks, said such dialogue was “impossible in a situation like this”.
China and Russia will hold naval exercises for 10 days from Monday. Military experts say such exercises send warnings to the North Koreans and the US and South Korea not to become too aggressive in the region.