Japan, U.S., South Korea slam North Korean missile launches, seek quick Security Council response

Kyodo

Japan, along with the United States and South Korea, condemned North Korea’s ballistic missile launches Wednesday, including one that landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone, and pressed for a quick U.N. Security Council response.

“We strongly condemn it,” Japan’s Ambassador Koro Bessho told reporters after the council held an emergency meeting to discuss the launches, calling them “a new step” in North Korea’s development of nuclear and missile capabilities.

“We see (it) as a grave violation of certainly the resolutions of the Security Council that have been passed before, but it is certainly a major, major problem for the security and safety of our region,” he said.

The Japanese Defense Ministry said the missile flew around 1,000 kilometers before falling in Japan’s EEZ 250 km west of the Oga Peninsula in Akita Prefecture. It was the first time that a North Korean missile’s warhead has landed in Japan’s EEZ, which extends 200 nautical miles (about 370 km) from shore.

The U.S. Strategic Command said it detected the simultaneous launch by the North of two missiles Wednesday morning, one of which exploded immediately after launch.

“I just want to stress the necessity of a strong and swift response from the Security Council and a reminder that this missile launch landed incredibly closely to Japan and this program and its continued advancement poses a threat that goes well beyond any particular country,” U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said.

South Korean Ambassador Oh Joon, pointing to how the North has increased the frequency of its tests in recent months, said 29 missiles of varying types, ranges and trajectories have been test-fired so far this year, posing a “clear and present danger.”

“It is definitely in the interest of all countries in the region to stop this dangerous series of provocations immediately,” he said, noting concerns that the tests were not “random” but rather systematically carried out to upgrade and refine their technologies.

Meanwhile, China, which is the North’s closest ally, was apparently not in favor of issuing a statement, which other members, such as the United States, France and Britain, had pressed for on Wednesday. All 15 members must agree before any statement is issued.

“The situation is tense and we need to do everything to de-escalate the situation,” China’s Ambassador Liu Jieyi told reporters. “Nothing should be done to exacerbate tension on the Korean Peninsula and there is a real risk.”

He stressed the importance of using dialogue and negotiations to solve the issue and pointed to “factors contributing to tension in the Korean Peninsula” in an apparent reference to the controversial U.S. antimissile system that Seoul and Washington agreed last month to install in South Korea.

Called the Terminal High Altitude Defense system, or THAAD, it is designed to intercept ballistic missiles flying at high altitudes.

“This is the first time that the North Koreans have launched a missile that has actually landed directly in the Japanese EEZ,” Britain’s Ambassador Peter Wilson told reporters. “It is yet another flagrant violation of numerous Security Council resolutions. Our objective in this meeting is to draw attention to that fact but also to come together to very, very clearly condemn it.”

Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon through his spokesman reiterated his call on the isolated country to “reverse its course and return to the process of sincere dialogue.”

“We are once again deeply troubled by the latest test-firing of missiles by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, one of which reportedly landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone,” Stephane Dujarric told reporters, referring to North Korea by its official name. “Such actions seriously undermine regional peace and stability.”

In 1998, North Korea fired a Taepodong-1 missile over Japan, of which a portion covering the tip fell in Japan’s Pacific Ocean EEZ.