Careful response required to N. Korea missile moves

By Arthur I. Cyr

��Egregious�� and ��grotesque�� is how United States Secretary of State John Kerry has described North Korea’s reckless international provocations, and brutal executions of victims who incur the wrath of leader Kim Jong Un.

Visiting Seoul on May 18, Kerry also emphasized that Pyongyang’s recent test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile provides clear evidence of no serious interest in joining the international community of nations. He spoke at a joint press conference with South Korea Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, underscoring the close, long-established alliance between our two nations.

Kerry threatened additional economic sanctions against North Korea. However, Pyongyang already is greatly constricted by harsh sanctions, yet the totalitarian regime survives. In moving forward, Washington should be guided by two fundamental considerations. First, for years North Korea has been characterized by erratic, inconsistent behavior. Second, effective defense against nuclear missiles now becomes even more important. In 2013, North Korea announced a ��state of war�� with South Korea and threatened nuclear attack. Pyongyang abruptly abrogated the 1953 armistice agreement ending the Korean War, and cut the military ��hot line�� communications link with the south.

North Korea also temporarily prevented South Korean workers from entering the Kaesong industrial center, located six miles north of the DMZ. The center has been reopened, and Pyongyang has made positive moves that include a reunion of previously separated families. This now well-established behavior pattern may signal power struggles below Kim Jong Un. Also on May 18, Kerry publicly mentioned the possible deployment in South Korea of the Lockheed-Martin THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Air Defense) system. In 2013, during earlier provocation by Pyongyang, the Pentagon expanded anti-ballistic missile defenses on the U.S. West Coast. Simultaneously, THAAD was sent to Guam, a potential target. In 2009, THAAD was sent to Hawaii for the same reason. Just before traveling to South Korea, Kerry visited China for discussions with senior foreign policy officials. The talks were reportedly positive and did not include THAAD, strongly opposed by Beijing.