On the 12th February, North Korea successfully test-fired a missile, dangerously aggravating Japanese leaders. The missile was fired into the Sea of Japan, with Kim Jong-Un supervising the launch. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was visiting President Trump in the US at the time, called the test-fire “absolutely intolerable”, while Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yoshihide Suga, asserted that because the launch was timed during the PMís meet with Trump, it was a “clear provocation to Japan and the region”. Trump stated that the US “stands behind Japan, its greatest ally, 100%.”
China similarly disapproved of the launch, despite being North Korea’s biggest ally and initially supporting the communist country while the rest of the world isolated it. In recent years, however, the Chinese have been taking a tougher stance on North Korea’s nuclear program by backing the UNís condemnation of North Korea’s provocative military tests. The United Nations Security Council also aims to restrict North Koreaís development of nuclear weapons, as well as prohibiting the country from carrying out ballistic missile launches.
The US, South Korea and Japan have called for an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council to deal with North Korea’s violation of the UN’s anti-nuclear weapon resolution. While North Korea’s strained foreign relations could in part be because of ideological friction, condemnation from multiple world leaders demonstrates global willingness to unite against the threat North Korea’s nuclear weapons pose. Russia has also expressed its concern, calling on all parties to deescalate tensions and drafting new sanctions against the state.
The nature of this new missile was also cause of concern. The new nuclear weapon, a Pukguksong-2, was announced to be solid-fuelled as opposed to previously liquid-fuelled, meaning it requires less preparation time and a smaller constellation of support vehicles to assist the launch vehicle. Both of these factors significantly decrease the time enemies would have to find and stop the missile. The launch vehicle carrying the new missile is also built with a continuous or “caterpillar” track, rather than wheels with tires, making the movement of the vehicle smoother. The new technology means that North Korea will be able to transport these nuclear weapons out of concealed storage and launch them more quickly and effectively. These capabilities represent a huge step forward for North Korea, raising the stakes for the rest of the world.