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North Korea fires again

North Korea fires again
In what comes as a direct challenge to the United States and China, North Korea fired another ballistic missile over Japan on Friday. And, it came just after a new sanctions resolution was adopted by the UN Security Council to force the country to halt its accelerating nuclear and missile tests. It blasted off from near the Sunan International Airport, north of Pyongyang and flew about 2,300 miles directly east, flying over northern Japan and falling into the Pacific Ocean. But, as the missile covered a distance more than that between the North Korean capital and the American air base in Guam, it clearly denotes that the North could reach the base with absolute ease. On the other hand, Pyongyang's missile launch over Hokkaido and its underground nuclear test have exposed Japan's Achilles' heel as its national security policy is still woefully ill-equipped for this escalating hazard. And, the new sanctions adopted by the United Nations Security Council on Monday would hardly limit Japan's exposure. Any American military strike against North Korea is likely to trigger castigatory measures against Japan. Japan appears highly exposed with very few military or diplomatic options, even then, it has acquired the land-based Aegis Ashore system. The firing of this ballistic missile is also seen as a warning that the primary American bomber base in the Pacific, which would be central to any military action on the Korean Peninsula, is within easy reach of the North's intermediate-range missiles. However, the Trump administration preferred not to take out the missile on the launching pad. The test also appeared to move Pyongyang one step closer to showing that it could place a nuclear warhead atop a missile that could travel thousands of kilometres; a prospect that has rattled the region and posed a daunting foreign policy challenge to the Trump administration. On the other hand, in Japan, an alert was issued on television and via mobile devices, warning people to take shelter inside a building or underground, when the missile landed in waters at about 2,205 kilometres east of the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. Incidentally, it was the second time in less than three weeks that North Korea sent a projectile over Japan and the missile firing immediately sparked angry reactions in Tokyo and Seoul. One day before this test, a North Korean state agency had issued an alarming threat to Japan that the four islands of the Japanese archipelago should be sunken into the sea by the nuclear bombs. "We can never tolerate that North Korea trampled on the international community's strong, united resolve toward peace that has been shown in UN resolutions and went ahead again with this outrageous act," the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said after the test. Considering the dangers facing Japan, America and its other allies, the Trump Administration would have to contain the North Korea threat, by eliminating any possible funds going into North Korea, driving up the costs for Kim to deploy his military assets or to develop new and even more dangerous weapons of mass destruction. On the other hand, United Nations would have to impose much more robust sanctions package that could cost heavy for Pyongyang. As an oil prohibition is unlikely to pass as it could destabilise the regime even worse than a war, the US should announce that any entity – helping the North Koreans evade sanctions – irrespective of firms from any nation, would be strictly black-listed from doing any business in the US. Not to forget, the time has come for the US to acknowledge that its policy of trying to induce North Korea's friends to rein in Pyongyang has failed. The best option for stopping the mounting nuclear threat from Kim Jong Un's regime is to muster maximum pressure without waiting for approval or cooperation from Beijing and Moscow. Until now, the Trump administration has held back as it sought to convince and elbow Beijing to use its considerable leverage to bring Kim to heel. Taking serious notes of the violence propagated by Pyongyang, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has quickly developed an intimate working relationship with the US President, despite difficulties between Japan and South Korea. Building bridges with Beijing remains a loaded notion for many Japanese, but Abe now has more clout and political capital to try, in the name of protecting Japan against the more immediate threat posed by North Korea. Remember, it could also be the last chance to shunt the Hermit Kingdom, blackmailing the world for a war!

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