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2014年7月30日 (水)

(社説)ミサイル発射 日朝協議でも説得を

July 29, 2014
EDITORIAL: Japan must tell North Korea that its provocations are pointless
(社説)ミサイル発射 日朝協議でも説得を

North Korea has kept up a series of provocative missile launches this year. In its latest test, apparently a political gesture, North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan off its eastern coast on July 26.

North Korea's history of reckless tests of nuclear weapons and missiles caused the U.N. Security Council to tighten international sanctions against the secretive regime.

Even a short-range missile test is enough to antagonize the international community and deepen Pyongyang's diplomatic isolation. It's time that North Korea came to grips with the absurdity of its actions.

Politically, North Korea appears to be trying to exert pressure on the government of South Korean President Park Geun-hye.

The Park administration has been beset by a string of serious accidents, crimes and scandals at home, and North Korea seems intent on gaining the upper hand ahead of talks it must have with South Korea sooner or later.

The Park administration has pledged to make efforts to improve the North-South relationship but maintained a hard-line stance toward Pyongyang. This policy has not gone down well in North Korea and blighted prospects for dialogue between the two countries.

North Korea has shown that its missiles can reach any part of South Korea. In the meantime, it has announced its intention to send athletes and cheerleaders to the Asian Games in September. The multisport event is slated to be held in South Korea's northwestern city of Incheon.

The North has said a “peaceful environment” needs to be created for its participation, implying that it wants scheduled joint military exercises involving the United States and South Korea in August to be called off. The North Korean regime is trying to put pressure on the Park administration by using both a hard and a soft approach.

As it is pursues this diplomatic strategy, North Korea may be seeking to make tactical use of its talks with Japan over Pyongyang’s past abductions of Japanese citizens and other issues.

Pyongyang’s recent missile tests should be considered also as a tactical move to achieve certain diplomatic objectives concerning relations among Tokyo, Washington and Seoul.

The Japanese government lodged a protest against the missile tests, but intends to continue holding talks with the North after concluding that they did not pose any immediate threat to Japanese territory or the general population.
But the North’s actions have different security implications for South Korea.

That is why both the United States and South Korea are casting a wary eye on Japan’s plan to continue talks with Pyongyang. At the same time, they have expressed their understanding of Tokyo’s motive.

The relationship between Japan and South Korea remains deeply strained mainly over differences in their views about history-related issues and a territorial dispute. If the two countries fail to put up a united front in dealing with North Korea, they risk playing right into Pyongyang’s hands.

Viewed from another angle, it can be said that Japan is currently the only country that is able to engage in direct, head-on diplomatic talks with the secluded regime in Pyongyang. In the bilateral talks on trying to resolve the abduction issue, Tokyo should keep urging Pyongyang to stop provocative acts like missile launches.

There is speculation that North Korea's foreign minister, Ri Su Yong, will attend a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Myanmar next month. The conference may offer a rare opportunity for Japan to communicate with a high-level official of North Korea.

Japan needs to use its official talks with North Korea wisely in its tenacious efforts to make the regime realize that military provocation is not in its best interest.

--The Asahi Shimbun, July 29


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