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Editorial: The global community must unite to rein in North Korea

Latest missile launch threatening Japan shows tougher sanctions are needed now

Kim Jong Un guides a target-striking contest among special operation forces in this photo released on Aug. 25 by state-run KCNA.   © KCNA via Reuters

North Korea fired a ballistic missile that passed over Japan on Aug. 29. This type of dangerous military provocation that threatens Japan's security must not be tolerated.

The rocket was launched near Pyongyang and flew over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido before falling into the Pacific Ocean, according to the Japanese Defense Ministry. Most likely the Hwasong-12 midrange missile, it traveled a distance of about 2,700km and reached a maximum altitude of roughly 550km. North Korea had previously announced plans to fire four of these missiles into waters near the U.S. territory of Guam.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has held off on the plan so far, saying he will continue to keep an eye on American actions. But with the U.S. and South Korea conducting joint annual drills as planned, the North fired what was believed to be three short-range missiles on Aug. 26.

The latest launch was likely intended to show that Pyongyang has the technological ability to fire missiles toward Guam and pressure the U.S. for concessions toward a dialogue. But any provocations that directly threaten Japan are unacceptable. Moreover, North Korea did not provide any warning ahead of the launch, adding to the recklessness of its behavior. Japan rightly called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council.

With the anniversary of North Korea's founding coming up on Sept. 9, the rogue state could conduct even more missile launches and nuclear tests. Tensions on the Korean Peninsula could escalate further, with unpredictable consequences.

It is imperative that these dangerous provocations are curbed as quickly as possible. Even while exploring peaceful options to nullify Pyongyang's nuclear threat, the international community must first unite in imposing tough sanctions on North Korea.

China and Russia, which both have deep ties to North Korea, have an especially important role to play. They must impose strict economic sanctions to force Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear and missile development programs, including cutting off its supply of oil -- a measure that would deal a serious blow to the Kim regime.

The Japanese government kept the public informed of the developments on Aug. 29 through the nationwide J-Alert warning system. Train suspensions and other responses to the launch disrupted daily life. Whether that level of crisis management was warranted may be open to debate, but the government must continue to put its citizens above all else in preparing for an emergency.

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