TOKYO (THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - North Korea is moving to stoke military tensions, with a view to wrenching concessions from the United States on denuclearisation talks.
Japan, the United States and other relevant nations must keep up their guard against North Korea's provocations and calmly respond to the situation.
North Korea has announced it conducted another "crucial test" at a missile test site in its northwest.
It said the test was part of efforts to develop "another strategic weapon" aimed at suppressing what it called a U.S. "nuclear threat."
Although the specifics of the test are unknown, there is a high possibility that it was an engine combustion experiment to improve an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) targeting the US mainland.
The North has set a year-end deadline for denuclearisation talks, and has obstinately urged the United States to advance a new proposal.
It seems that the latest test was intended to rattle the US by indicating that the North will resume the development of nuclear weapons unless Washington complies with its demand.
The Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea is set to hold a plenary meeting late this month.
Attention needs to be paid to the meeting, given that important decisions have been made in such meetings in the past regarding the policy toward the United States, among others.
The problem is that the North is attempting to have anti-North Korea sanctions lifted and gain other concessions in exchange for partial denuclearisation measures, but with its nuclear program kept intact.
There is also no overlooking North Korea's repeated testing of short-range ballistic missile launches.
In a session of the U.N. Security Council on Dec. 11, the United States had every reason to criticise the North, saying that its ballistic missile launches, regardless of their shooting range, are clear violations of the resolutions adopted by the council.
In the past, US President Donald Trump repeatedly made remarks that could be taken as tolerating North Korea's short-range missile launches.
In early December, however, he finally issued a warning against the North, saying the country would risk losing "everything" if it "acts in a hostile way."
Trump should realise the overoptimism of his perceptions about North Korea.
Trump's diplomatic policy toward the North relies on his friendly personal relations with Kim Jong Un, chairman of Workers' Party of Korea.
There is something precarious about this.
Tenacious working-level talks are indispensable for achieving North Korea's complete denuclearisation.
Stephen Biegun, US special representative for North Korea, who is visiting South Korea, called on the North to seek dialogue with the United States, saying that Washington and Pyongyang have "the ability to choose a better path" if they intend to do so.
Biegun will visit Japan as well.
It is timely for Japan, the United States and South Korea to coordinate their policies toward the North.
Japan must urge the United States to ensure that North Korean medium-range missiles that can strike Japan are included in the list of items to be discarded, in addition to ICBMs.
It is important to maintain pressure on the North through economic sanctions until it actually starts to denuclearise itself.
A resolution previously adopted by the Security Council requires relevant countries to send back North Korean workers, engaged in earning foreign currency, no later than Dec 22.
China and Russia should responsibly carry out the resolution.
The Yomiuri Shimbun is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 24 news media organisations.