[Editorial] Defending against missile provocations

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[Editorial] Defending against missile provocations

North Korea has threatened to produce a large quantity of nuclear missiles after firing super-sized multiple rocket launchers to the East Sea. After firing four rockets with a range of 400 kilometers (249 miles) on the last day of 2022 and the first day of the new year, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un described them as “attack weapons that can carry tactical nuclear warheads to target entire parts of South Korea.” The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), a North Korean mouthpiece, said Kim ordered the military to “mass-produce tactical warheads and increase the number of nuclear bombs expoentially” in a full meeting of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party after defining South Korea as a “clear enemy of North Korea.”

Kim’s remarks translate into an instruction to escalate the level of tensions against South Korea from the beginning of the year. The North is expected to carry out its seventh nuclear test to produce tactical nukes and test-fire an advanced ICBM aimed at the United States.

But the North’s nuclear weapons will be of no use. After insisting on the “defensive use of nuclear weapons” for a while, Kim Yo-jong, the sister of the North Korean leader, hinted at the possibility of using nukes on South Korea last April. In September, North Korea even stipulated nuclear armaments on the constitution of the party. But the North cannot use nuclear weapons against South Korea due to the U.S. extended deterrence. If it attempts to take action, it must pay the heavy price of mutually assured destruction.

If Pyongyang wants to mass-produce nuclear weapons as Kim vowed, it needs an astronomical amount of money to operate and maintain them. That will lead to the collapse of its feeble economy. North Koreans’ income reportedly shriveled by 40 percent last year from 2016.

Kim Jong-un has skipped his New Year’s address again, as he could not present economic visions to the people to assuage their deepening pain. North Korea already suffers an unbearable crisis from international sanctions and Covid-19.

As long as the North is bent on ratcheting up tensions through nuclear missile treats, we must have an unflinching determination to protect our security based on reinforcing our joint defense posture with Uncle Sam. South Korea must acquire the ability to neutralize the North’s nuclear and missile bases as soon as possible and conduct methodical military drills on a regular basis. The government also must restore the General Security of Military Information Agreement (Gsomia) with Japan and set up an effective system to share the North’s missile launch information in real time. North Korea must come to the negotiating table before it’s too late.
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