Manila Bulletin

We must keep a wary eye on N. Korea’s mis­sile tests


ABOUT a year ago, in Fe­bru­ary, 2016, North Korea launched a bal­lis­tic mis­sile that flew south by eastern South Korea, over Ja­pan’s Ok­i­nawa, and landed in the Pa­cific Ocean near Batanes in the Philip­pines. It was sup­posed to be a test of a rocket to put a satel­lite in or­bit. But the United Na­tions saw it as a test of bal­lis­tic mis­sile tech­nol­ogy, which is banned un­der UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tions.

Last Sun­day, North Korea fired a bal­lis­tic mis­sile , de­scribed as one of medium range. This one flew east about 500 miles into the sea be­tween Korea and Ja­pan. The test was done while Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe was meet­ing with United States Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in Wash­ing­ton, DC.

The mis­sile test was seen as a mes­sage to Ja­pan and the US who are now draw­ing closer to­gether in the wake of Trump’s elec­tion and his call on Ja­pan to take on more of the re­spon­si­bil­ity for main­tain­ing se­cu­rity in this part of the world. In a joint press con­fer­ence af­ter the mis­sile launch, Abe called the mis­sile test “ab­so­lutely in­tol­er­a­ble” while Trump de­clared that the US stands be­hind Ja­pan “one hun­dred per­cent.”

In his New Year’s Day ad­dress, North Korea leader Kim Jong-un an­nounced that the coun­try had reached the fi­nal stages of readi­ness for an In­ter­con­ti­nen­tal Bal­lis­tic Mis­sile (ICBM) which could reach the US main­land. The coun­try’s staterun me­dia said North Korea will con­tinue both its nu­clear and mis­sile devel­op­ment pro­grams un­til the US aban­dons its “hos­tile pol­icy.”

North Korea’s tests are part of an on­go­ing con­fronta­tion among na­tions vy­ing for dom­i­nance in East Asia, with the US, Ja­pan, and South Korea pre­sent­ing a com­mon front, with China also de­ter­mined to as­sert it­self, and with North Korea seen as a largely un­known fac­tor with its own am­bi­tions. Its steady devel­op­ment of long-range mis­siles along with nu­clear war­heads presents a threat to the US.

As for the Philip­pines, the fact that one North Korean mis­sile landed near Batanes last year shows that we could very eas­ily get in­volved in any con­flict, and that, there­fore, we should keep a wary eye on North Korea’s con­tin­u­ing tests.

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