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North Korea launched a new bal­lis­tic mis­sile on Fri­day morn­ing, which Ja­panese and South Korean re­ports said flew over Hokkaido, Ja­pan be­fore fall­ing into the Pa­cific, trav­el­ing 3,700 kilo­me­ters. The launch is the first since North Korea’s sixth nu­clear test and the new UN sanc­tions on Py­ongyang.

Given the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion, the fol­low­ing points need to be made clear.

North Korea has aimed to ac­quire nu­clear and mis­sile ca­pa­bil­i­ties at all costs. Their lat­est tests show they can strike Guam. Em­bold­ened by the break­through, North Korea will con­tinue its re­search into mis­siles ca­pa­ble of reach­ing US ter­ri­tory de­spite warn­ings from the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.

In spite of their progress, Py­ongyang is un­likely to be bold enough to pre­emp­tively at­tack the US and its al­lies. This would be noth­ing more than sui­cide. It also runs con­trary to the true pur­pose of North Korea’s mis­sile re­search – to ex­tend the life of its regime.

Though sanc­tions can­not put an im­me­di­ate stop to North Korea’s nu­clear and mis­sile am­bi­tions, the agree­ment reached by the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil shows the unity of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity and co­or­di­na­tion among ma­jor pow­ers. A split among ma­jor coun­tries would cre­ate space for North Korea’s mil­i­tary pro­gram. As long as the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity ef­fec­tively man­ages its dis­putes, North Korea will be blocked from be­com­ing a le­git­i­mate nu­clear power. Any provo­ca­tion that sends ma­jor coun­tries into chaos is a po­lit­i­cal suc­cess for Py­ongyang.

The chal­lenge is how to con­trol the com­pli­cated sit­u­a­tion, and pre­vent pro­lif­er­a­tion. A nu­clear-ca­pa­ble North Korea must be pre­vented from stir­ring up Northeast Asia and the wider re­gion.

The US and South Korea should change their pre­vi­ous strate­gies of threats of force to re­duce ten­sions on the Korean Penin­sula. Even though sanc­tions might have an ef­fect in the long run, in­creas­ing mil­i­tary pres­sure on North Korea will only do the op­po­site. This morn­ing, South Korea launched two mis­siles in im­me­di­ate re­sponse. This will only en­cour­age the North. Does Seoul truly be­lieve its mis­siles will scare Py­ongyang?

The US and South Korea should make ef­forts to guide North Korea into a new strate­gic di­rec­tion. An iso­lated North Korea will be more ra­tio­nal if in­ter­na­tional so­ci­ety treats it in a ra­tio­nal way.

The UN sanc­tions are the cen­ter of in­ter­na­tional ef­forts against North Korea’s mis­sile pro­grams, but di­a­logue, which is a more ef­fec­tive ap­proach, is still lack­ing. The sit­u­a­tion may sta­bi­lize, or could be­come an out-of-con­trol dis­as­ter. Py­ongyang may be a rule breaker, but the US and South Korea are the real un­cer­tainty.

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