A test we ignore at our own peril

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A test we ignore at our own peril

North Korea is preparing to cross a red line. On Wednesday morning, it fired a projectile — probably a ballistic missile — from an airport near Pyongyang. The projectile exploded in midair on a vertical ascent phase. It is not clear whether the projectile was the main body of its most-advanced Hwasong-17 ICBM or a launch vehicle for another type of ICBM as in the case of tests in late February and early March.

One thing that is clear is that the recalcitrant state across the border is determined to test-fire an advanced ICBM. In other words, it is attempting to cross a red line set by South Korea and the United States. After declaring an end to its self-imposed moratorium on ICBM launches and nuclear tests, North Korea is playing with fire again. Our intelligence authorities clearly said that North Korea has started preparations for an ICBM launch.

We cannot ignore the failed launch of an ICBM by North Korea. The country has continued advancing the level of its missiles through endless trial and error. When it comes to developing highly sophisticated missiles, the number of failures doesn’t matter for Pyongyang. Even if the launch on Wednesday was botched, North Korea will certainly try another launch once it is ready.

An ICBM that can reach as far as the U.S. mainland directly tests the limits of America’s patience. If North Korea chooses to cross the line, it might get exactly the opposite results it expects. Though the Kim Jong-un regime wants to take advantage of the United States’ distraction with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, there is no guarantee that North Korea could get what it wants if it plays with fire.

Our military, the Blue House and intelligence authorities must devise and implement policies that can dissuade North Korea from crossing the line. Timed with the launch in May of the Yoon Suk-yeol administration, the level of tension in the Korean Peninsula could escalate to unseen levels. The Moon Jae-in administration must double-check its cooperation system with the United States and other countries. Seoul and Washington must send a joint warning to Pyongyang beyond the level of the joint statement the two allies announced last week.

If North Korea really believes it can raise its international stature and also break its economic deadlock as long as it has nuclear weapons and missiles, that’s a serious miscalculation. Our government must prove that true. Over the last five years, it became clear that appeasement cannot help change North Korea. We hope the Moon administration strives to prevent its provocations by keeping a realistic and cold-hearted attitude. In the process, President-elect Yoon and the transition committee must cooperate with the government.
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