From the NewStatesman…
At around 7am on Friday, loudspeakers in the town of Kaimaishi, northern Japan blared into action, warning of an inbound North Korean missile. The missile passed over Japan and splashed down in the Pacific approximately 2,000 kilometres east of Hokkaido. This is only the fourth time North Korea has directed a missile over Japan. The first was in 1998 and the second 2009. The last two times have only been a matter of weeks apart.
North Korea’s latest missile test comes in response to a new round of sanctions imposed on the country after it conducted its sixth nuclear test on 3 September 2017. Heralded by the US as the toughest yet, the measures include an embargo on North Korean textile exports, a bar on North Korean workers overseas obtaining new work permits and reducing oil imports by 30 per cent. Whilst the resolution was passed unanimously by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), the support of Russia and China was only won after the original proposal from the US was diluted heavily.
This latest response, as well as the detonation of a high-yield nuclear device following the first round sanctions in August, have not swayed the US conviction that imposing ever tougher sanctions on North Korea will force the regime to abandon its nuclear programme. Already there are calls for fresh sanctions. The United States (US) secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, is pressing for Russia and China to take “direct action of their own” ahead of the emergency UNSC meeting later today.
However, both Russia and China have expressed scepticism over US policy preferences on North Korea. Prior to the last UNSC meeting, at a Brics summit in China, Russian president Vladimir Putin remarked: “The sanctions regime has run its course…they will rather eat grass in North Korea than abandon this programme.” Putin was also reluctant to support the US demands for an oil embargo, arguing that Russian oil exports to North Korea are negligible.