MS Risk Blog

UN Security To Meet after North Korea Fires Another Missile Over Japan

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Tensions again increased between North Korea and the international community last week after the North fired another missile over Japan. It was a week of high tensions, with North Korea threatening both Japan and the United States.

On Friday, South Korean and Japanese officials reported that North Korea fired a second missile over Japan far out into the Pacific Ocean – in a move that has further depend tension after Pyongyang’s recent test of its sixth an most powerful nuclear bomb. Diplomats announced late on Friday that the United Nations Security Council would meet later in the day in order to discuss the launch at the request of the United States and Japan. The meeting will take place just days after its fifteen members unanimously stepped up sanctions against North Korea over its 3 September nuclear test. Those sanctions imposed a ban on North Korea’s textile exports and capped its imports of crude oil.

Speaking to reporters, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga disclosed that the latest missile flew over Hokkaido in the north and landed in the Pacific, about 2,000 km (1,240 miles) to the east. According to South Korea’s military, the missile reached an altitude of about 770 km (480 miles) and flew for about 19 minutes over about 3,700 km (2,300 miles) – far enough to reach the US Pacific territory of Guam, which North Korea has threatened before. Warning announcements about the missile blared around 8 AM (2200 GMT Thursday) in parts of northern Japan, while many residents received alerts on their mobile phones or saw warnings on TV telling them to seek refuge. On 29 August, North Korea launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile, the Hwasong-12, which travelled 2,700 km (1,700 miles) over Japan. In a statement, the Union of Concerned Scientists disclosed that “the range of this test was significant since North Korea demonstrated that it could reach Guam with this missile,” noting however that the accuracy of the missile, still at an early stage of development, was low.

US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has disclosed that Friday’s launch “put millions of Japanese into duck and cover,” although residents of northern Japan appeared calm and went about their business as normal after the second such launch in less than a month. Soon after Friday’s launch, the US military reported that it had detected a single intermediate range ballistic missile, noting however that the missile did not pose a threat to North America or Guam, which lies 3,400 km (2,110 km) from North Korea.

On Thursday, a North Korean state agency threatened to use nuclear weapons to “sink” Japan and reduce the US to “ashes and darkness” for supporting a UN Security Council resolution and sanctions over its latest nuclear test. The Korea-Asia Pacific Peace Committee, which handles the North’s external ties and propaganda, also called for the breakup of the UN Security Council, which it called “a tool of evil” made up of “money-bribed” countries that move at the order of the United States.

US officials repeated Washington’s “ironclad” commitments to the defense of its allies, with Secretary of Stat Rex Tillerson calling for “new measures” against North Korea and stating that the “continued provocations only deepened North Korea’s diplomatic and economic isolation.” Meanwhile South Korean President Moon Jae-in has stated that dialogue with the North was impossible at this point. According to a spokesman, he ordered officials to analyse and prepare for possible new North Korean threats, including electromagnetic pulse and biochemical attacks. Russia stated that the missile test was part of a series of unacceptable provocations and that the UN Security Council was united in believing that such launches should not be taking place.

North Korea has launched dozens of missiles under young leader Kim Jong un as it accelerates a weapons programme that is designed to give it the ability to target the US with a powerful, nuclear-tipped missile. Two tests carried out in July were for long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching at least parts of the US mainland. Last month, North Korea fired an intermediate range missile from a similar area near the capital Pyongyang that also flew over Hokkaido into the ocean. The North warned at the time that more would follow.