Missile tests backfireNorth Korea has once again resorted to its signature brinkmanship by firing multiple rockets from Wonsan on its east coast into the East Sea last weekend under leader Kim Jong-un’s watch. The projectiles are the same as the ones that appeared in a military parade in Pyongyang shortly before the PyeongChang Winter Olympics last year. According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, they flew 200 kilometers (124 miles) into the sea. After the firing tests, Kim said, “True peace and security can only be guaranteed by strong military power,” throwing cold water on the fledgling peaceful mood in the Korean Peninsula.
North Korea’s brinkmanship is nothing new. This time, it chose a military provocation to break out of its international isolation after the collapse of the denuclearization summit in Hanoi, Vietnam. Pyongyang made a low-profile provocation by firing short-range ballistic missiles. Yet as the United Nations resolutions strictly ban launches of any projectiles based on ballistic missile technology, its latest test is an outright violation.
The North’s provocation has pushed President Moon Jae-in into a dilemma as he has been restraining the South Korea-U.S. joint drills to not provoke Pyongyang. The new Blue House spokeswoman, Ko Min-jung, urged North Korea to “stop heightening military tension” because they violate the Sept. 19, 2018, military agreement between Moon and Kim. Vox, a U.S. news and opinion website, said Trump was angered by the unexpected threat from North Korea. If Kim takes a step further, it will not only damage peaceful negotiations, but also help revive Washington’s hawkish stance toward North Korea.
The Moon administration must abandon its laid-back attitude toward the recalcitrant state. The government first announced it had fired “short-range missiles,” but soon changed them into “short-range projectiles” apparently to downplay the tests. The Blue House also held a meeting with related ministers — not a National Security Council meeting — to not alarm North Korea.
Thanks to the short-range missiles’ range of up to 500 kilometers, the entire Korean Peninsula is in their range. The Ministry of Defense must make public the details of the launch and come up with effective ways to cope with the new threat. If North Korea decides to attach nuclear warheads on the missiles, it will endanger our security. Kim Jong-un must keep his promise to denuclearize instead of damaging his own sincerity and international trust in him.
JoongAng Ilbo, May 6, Page 26