What Can the World Do About North Korea?

The U.N.-observed International Day Against Nuclear Tests did not get off to a flying start. North Korea continued to ignore multiple calls to end its nuclear missile development program and instead fired a ballistic missile over Japan Tuesday.

The missile test occurred as top U.N. diplomats convene in Geneva to discuss disarmament. Instead, they are confronted with an increasing threat from North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

At the meeting, North Korea’s ambassador to the U.N., Han Tae Song, was defiant in the face of criticism following Tuesday’s launch, the 14th time this year that North Korea has staged missile tests.

He claimed the U.S. and its joint military drills with South Korea are driving the situation “towards extreme levels of explosion,” forcing the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (or DPRK, North Korea’s official name) to continue developing nuclear weapons as a form of deterrence.

“DPRKs will continue to strengthen its defense capability with nuclear force, as of favored as long as the U.S. maintains nuclear freeze, and do not stop military drills, at the doorstep of DPRK. The U.S. pressure and provocative act will only provide for the justification for the DPRK’s measure to strengthen its self-defense capabilities,” the ambassador said, as quoted by Reuters.

A North Korea Scud-B missile is displayed at the Korea War Memorial Museum in Seoul on August 26. Three days later, North Korea launched a missile that flew over Japan, prompting an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council. Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

According to the South Korean secret service, the launch was meant to add credibility to those capabilities. “The North suggested that its Guam threat could be turned into a reality,” the National Intelligence Service said at a parliamentary briefing Tuesday, according to the Yonhap News Agency. “[North Korea] intended to maximize the impact of its show of force by sending the missile over Japan’s airspace.”

Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea specialist at Seoul’s Dongguk University, said the missile launch was meant as an act of provocation that would not openly cross U.S. territory. “I think that the North probably made a provocative act, as it cannot fire missiles toward Guam, which means an attack on the U.S.,” he told Yonhap.

The missile launch puts the U.S. in a difficult position, since it represents an obvious provocation but, as nuclear nonproliferation expert Jeffrey Lewis…

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