In a very familiar set of events, the North Korean military tested four of its ballistic missiles on Monday by firing them towards Japan’s northwest coast. This particular series of long-range missile testing has been a reoccurrence over the past few months and has taken place under the direct supervision of their leader Kim Jong-un.
While the missiles have the capability of traveling thousands of kilometers, their flights were cut short, as they landed in the ocean just shy of Japan. According to Japan’s Defence-Minister Tomomi Inada, a few of the missiles being tested came within 300 km of the country’s coastline.
The incident follows the United States’ annual joint military drills with South Korea last week. In a public statement, Kim Jong-un condemned the drills, suggesting “retaliatory measures” would follow. Currently, the United States is working on an anti-missile defence system referred to as THAAD. Standing for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, this system would be able to intercept a nuclear missile were it destined for American soil.
Discussions between the United States and Japan surpassed earlier this week, following the event. President of the United States Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe determined the tests to be dangerous and are urging the United Nations Security Council to take action. “The latest North Korean missile launches were clearly against UN resolutions and a clear provocation against the regional and international community,” said Abe publicly, following his conversation with Trump.
The resolutions imposed on North Korea were in place to deter their developing nuclear weapons program and put an end to the nuclear program altogether. According to an article by the Arms Control Association, the resolutions have not achieved their desired goals in stopping the missile programs. However, the Arms Control Association does note that “the sanctions have slowed development in these areas.”
In a recent article by The Wall Street Journal, the United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting on Wednesday following the missile launches. The council condemned North Korea’s actions, but the impromptu gathering did not yield any new definitive approaches to dealing with the incident.
While countries like the United States and Japan are drafting their next moves in this missile issue, neighbouring countries, such as China are urging a stand still. In an attempt to douse the flames in this situation, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi is suggesting an alternative approach. Likening the two sides of the tumultuous issue as “accelerating trains, coming toward each other,” Yi proposes a “suspension-for-suspension” method. In this approach, military drills from South Korea and the United States would cease, and in return, North Korea would extinguish nuclear and missile activities.
“Our priority now is to flash the red light and apply the brakes on both trains,” says Yi. “This suspension-for-suspension can help break out of the security dilemma and bring the parties back to the negotiating table.”
Yi’s method of dealing with the matter at hand stems from a foundation rooted in non-violence. The question remains as to whether or not Trump’s bold administration will keep that option on the table. It should also be considered what Japan and South Korea’s tolerance is looking like due to continued exposure to these events in their own backyards. As stated earlier, this is not a one-off, and so the coming days should hold some insight as to what definitive action the Security Council decides upon in response to Monday’s tests.
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