AFTER its successful launching of inter-mediate range Musudan missiles last Tuesday, on Wednesday experts in Japan, South Korea and the United States now consider North Korean missiles a “real and serious threat.”
The Korean War erupted 66 years ago. Technically, the Korean Peninsula is still in a state of war between the South, aided by the US and allies like Philippines, and the North, aided by allies like China, because the 1950-53 Korean War was stopped not by a peace treaty but only a ceasefire or an armistice.
Japan’s Defense Ministry said North Korea seems to have substantially progressed in developing its intermediate-range Musudan missile after its embarrassing failures earlier this year.
The first missile launched fell short of its intended altitude. However, some two hours after the first launch, the second missile fired reached an altitude of over 1,000 kilometers and flew approximately 400 kilometers before falling into the Sea of Japan.
With this capability, Defense Minister Gen. Nakatani said Pyongyang had shown “some capability” with the midrange missile, which has a potential range of 2,500 to 4,000 kilometers. Therefore, Pyongyang could now target not only Japan, but also much of Asia and the Pacific, including US military bases in Guam and, of course, any installation in the Philippines.
“This achievement means that the North now has more missiles that can reach Japan,” Mr. Nakatani said. “The impact of the matter poses a grave concern to Japan’s national security.”
Japan Times reported that it received an email from US Navy Cmdr. Dave Benham, spokesman of the US Pacific Command, who said: “The missiles were tracked over the Sea of Japan, where initial indications are they fell.” He added that NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) had determined the launches did not pose a threat to North America.
North Korea had conducted four test-firings of what appeared to be Musudans since mid-April—all ending in apparent failures. The second launching Wednesday was definitely a success.
Of course, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed Japanese reaction to this North Korean achievement. He denounced it as the most recent provocation, and told reporters that deed “simply cannot be tolerated.” Japanese Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda said Japan had lodged a stern protest with Pyongyang via its embassy in Beijing.
But what can anybody really do to make North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un feel that he had better not fire missiles anymore because Japan and the United States “will not tolerate it.”
The US has led the move in the United Nations to impose last March some of the world body’s harshest sanctions against Pyongyang. Kim Jong-un et al. have endured the effects of the sanctions and mocked the Western Powers and the UN by firing these missiles.
In a statement on Wednesday, which only indicates the helplessness of the world against Kim Jong-un, US State Department Spokesman John Kirby said: “These provocations only serve to increase the international community’s resolve to counter (North Korea’s) prohibited activities, including through implementing existing US Security Council sanctions.”
Tuesday’s missiles once more proclaim North Korea’s determination to continue pursuing its nuclear plans, despite the UN sanctions, which explicitly ban it from using ballistic-missile technology.
What do we Filipinos do? Smile, pray, and continue being best friends with South Korea while being friends also with the North.