Prime Minister Taro Aso and South Korean President Lee Myung Bak agreed in their Sunday meeting in Tokyo that North Korea’s nuclear and missile development programs pose a grave threat, and that Japan, South Korea and the United States must closely cooperate to counter it. The two leaders also agreed that the international community cannot accept North Korea as a nuclear power and should make the insular nation realize that it will pay a high price for its provocative acts.

Following the United Nations Security Council’s adoption of Resolution 1874 on June 12 following North Korea’s May 25 nuclear weapons test, North Korea is raising the stakes by declaring it will start enriching uranium and preparing for more missile tests. The resolution forbids financial transactions that could facilitate the North’s missile and nuclear programs, expands an arms embargo and calls for inspection of cargo on North Korea-related ships suspected of carrying nuclear- and missile-related items.

The international community needs to rigorously enforce the U.N.-backed sanctions against the North to prevent Pyongyang from proceeding with its missile and nuclear programs. Japan, South Korea and the U.S. in particular need to work closely together. Gaining the cooperation of China, the largest trade partner of and aid donor for North Korea, is also indispensable.

The U.N. is now working out the details of the financial sanctions and the procedural matters related to inspection of ships traveling to and from North Korea. The U.S. military is keeping tabs on the North Korean ship Kang Nam 1, which is suspected of carrying missile components and nuclear-related materials.

The U.S. aims to make the North realize that its practice of brinkmanship to get concessions such as energy and food aid will no longer work. International pressure on North Korea is important, but it is critical that it be applied in a manner that will make Pyongyang realize that becoming a trustful member of the international community will benefit it far more than developing and possessing nuclear weapons.

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