Missile test over Japan: what is Kim Jong-un after?

North Korea provoked Japan on Tuesday by firing a medium-range missile over its territory. A day later, South Korea and the US responded by firing several missiles towards the Sea of Japan. This was the first time in five years that Pyongyang test-fired a missile over the Japanese archipelago. Is there a threat of escalation?

Open/close all quotes
Polityka (PL) /

Fatal misinterpretations possible

The danger should not be underestimated, Polityka warns:

“Several times already the North has escalated the situation, threatened war and launched bombs and missiles, only to 'heroically' avert a global conflict and then come back with a list of demands. ... Now the circumstances are such that the UN cannot impose new sanctions in view of the Russian blockade. ... Military demonstrations are possible, including US or South Korean fly-bys near the border. Now, however, such a game is more dangerous. It would be easy to commit a mistake, including the fatal misinterpretation of the opponent's moves. Under such conditions blackmail can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Deutschlandfunk (DE) /

Xi and Putin looking on with glee

Kim Jong-un clearly feels stronger than he has in a long time, Deutschlandfunk comments:

“Dictator Kim is unabashedly increasing his arsenal of nuclear weapons and missiles with the aim of being able to target the US mainland directly. The goal is to make the US accept North Korea as a nuclear power, as Pakistan for example has done, and lift the UN sanctions. Kim need not fear new punitive measures; China and Russia would block them in the Security Council. Presidents Xi and Putin note with glee that the US, Japan and South Korea have no means to oppose this North Korean strategy. The last thing the allies need now is a hot war on the Korean peninsula. So they have no choice but to let Kim do as he pleases.”

The Times (GB) /

Ignoring provocations not an option

North Korea's provocations must be met with sanctions and deterrence, writes The Times:

“The model should be the stringent sanctions that forced Iran to the negotiating table in 2015. And in the meantime, the Biden administration should proceed with military exercises with, and aid to, its allies in the region. Containment is a long-term strategy with no guarantee of success. Yet the precondition of a pacific world order is to deter miscalculation by an aggressor and punish any infraction of international agreements. That is the only sensible stance in dealing with North Korea's bellicose totalitarianism.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Carte blanche for Kim

Neither Moscow nor Beijing will vote for sanctions against Pyongyang, Le Monde predicts:

“Pyongyang also curries favour with its traditional partner China. In a letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping on the occasion of the 73rd anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on October 1, Kim Jong-un described the relationship with Beijing as an 'invincible friendship'. Against this backdrop, it seems impossible that Moscow and Beijing will vote for sanctions against Pyongyang in the Security Council. This gives North Korea carte blanche to continue developing its nuclear weapons and missiles.”

Vasily Golovnin (RU) /

North Korea trying to get the US's attention

Vasily Golovnin, Japan correspondent for Tass news agency, describes on Facebook what could have prompted North Korea to test the missile:

“Pyongyang clearly wanted to react with this missile launch to a large-scale manoeuvre held by a US navy group off the Korean peninsula. ... Warships from Japan and South Korea were also involved. There is speculation in Tokyo that Pyongyang will repeat such provocative actions before the US midterm elections to put Washington's North Korea policy firmly on the campaign agenda. The launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile with the potential to strike US territory cannot be ruled out.”