A botched peace processNorth Korea has carried out a barrage of missile provocations. It fired an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) Hwasong-12 on Jan. 30. The mid-to long-range missile reached an altitude of 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles) and flew for 800 kilometers before it landed in waters off Japan. At full power and at a standard trajectory, the missile is believed to be capable of traveling 4,000 kilometers, placing U.S. military bases in Guam, pivotal to defending South Korea, in its target range. The latest test brings the regime’s intense flurry of missile actions since the start of the new year to a culmination. It is returning to 2017, when it tested IRBMs and ICBMs, raising tensions on the Korean Peninsula to a peak.
The firing of an IRBM goes against the self-imposed moratorium on intermediate- and long-range ballistic missiles and nuclear tests Pyongyang vowed during summits with Seoul and Washington in 2018. In a National Security Council meeting, President Moon Jae-in also admitted that North Korea came near to nullifying the moratorium and violated the UN Security Council resolutions, a rare critical tone on North Korea for Moon who has stubbornly been engaging Pyongyang. Moon’s so-called peace process has flopped disastrously. Washington called for an emergency Security Council meeting to address North Korea’s IRBM launch.
A series of missile launches underscore that Pyongyang has gone all-out on weapons development over the last four years. The state media reported the Hwasong-12 test was aimed to “selectively evaluate the missile being produced and deployed and to verify the accuracy of the missile system.”
Pyongyang has entirely gone against international wishes to turn it into a normal state. The country has demonstrated it can threaten South Korea with tactical weapons and the U.S. mainland with ICBMs. North Korea could demand a direct nuclear arms negotiation with America.
The government has been helpless. It refrains from using the word “provocation” against the missile launches. The presidential candidates also unsettle the public. Yoon Suk-yeol of the main opposition People Power Party said he would order a preemptive strike upon clear signs of a North Korean nuclear attack. His rival Lee Jae-myung from the ruling Democratic Party accused him of being a “warmonger.”
There should be no ruling or opposition party on security issues. North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats have become an urgent danger. South Korea and the U.S. must strengthen surveillance on North Korea’s weapons program based on strong alliance.