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A day after threatening to sink Japan, North Korea fired a ballistic missile over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido on Friday. This comes just days the Security Council slapped the country with punitive sanctions.

This is the regime’s second launch over Japan in less than a month. An IRBM was fired over Japan on 29th August, dispelling any doubts about Kim Jong Un’s  ability to take risks besides making the threat to Guam all the more credible.

It would be interesting to note how the US reacts to it in the days to come. Certainly, threats of inflicting pain and suffering are credible as the DPRK has shown the proclivity to take risks amid condemnation

The recent bout of tensions has escalated owing to Pyongyang’s 6th nuclear test earlier this month. The mere fact that the test was a major landmark in the completion of DPRK’s nuclear forces meant that the cat was set among the pigeons in the international community. The US ramped up its verbal threats while Russia and China suggested a cautious approach, one that entailed diplomacy and dialogue.

Read more: Pyongyang slapped with sanctions: Will they work this time?

The Kim regime follows up threats with actions. Japan was outrageously threatened on Wednesday. “The four islands of the archipelago should be sunken into the sea by the nuclear bomb of Juche. Japan is no longer needed to exist near us,” the KCNA’s statement said.

South Korea can ill-afford to ratchet up its verbal tirade and military exercises because Kim not only has the ability but the willingness to cause ‘pain and suffering’

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the launch was “totally unacceptable” and was repugnant to  “the international community’s strong, united will for a peaceful solution.” However, if recent events are anything to go by, it is clear that apart from China and Russia, all stakeholders have shown the willingness to fire all cylinders.

The reaction 

According to the South Korean military, the missile was launched from the district of Sunan which happens to be home to the country’s main airport. In response, Seoul carried out a “live fire drill” which included a missile that the military believe can strike the launch site in Sunan. Given the asymmetry in military capabilities between the two Koreas, especially the nuclear imbalance, the fire drill is likely to endanger South instead of deterring the North.

Read more: Pyongyang warns Washington of ‘pain and suffering’

The four islands of the archipelago should be sunken into the sea by the nuclear bomb of Juche. Japan is no longer needed to exist near us

“North Korea’s firing of yet another ballistic missile is a clear violation of (UN Security Council) resolutions and a very serious and grave challenge to international peace and security,” the South Korean government said in a statement. However, South Korea can ill-afford to ratchet up its verbal tirade and military exercises because Kim not only has the ability but the willingness to cause ‘pain and suffering’. Nuclear weapon states cannot be deterred by conventional military threats.

US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, who has time and again hinted at finding a diplomatic solution to the crisis, condemned the launch and asked Russia and China to “do more”. He said: “China supplies North Korea with most of its oil. Russia is the largest employer of North Korean forced labor. China and Russia must indicate their intolerance for these reckless missile launches by taking direct actions of their own.”

The mere fact that the test was a major landmark in the completion of DPRK’s nuclear forces meant that the cat was set among the pigeons in the international community

However, China and Russia have been reticent to pull the plug on DPRK. China cannot afford ruckus and mayhem in North Korea thus it will baulk all attempts aimed at military hurting it. Another reason as to why China cannot bat against Pyongyang is that if it also withdraws support for the regime, the nuclear bomb will become even more indispensable for Kim if it isn’t today.

Read more: Pyongyang tests a Hydrogen Bomb: the Peninsula is on the edge

It would be interesting to note how the US reacts to it in the days to come. Certainly, threats of inflicting pain and suffering are credible as the DPRK has shown the proclivity to take risks amid condemnation. The predicament is now one of deterrence and not proliferation. Would the US risk obliterate CONUS by coming all-out in support of its allies? This factor may go on to determine the future course of this crisis.

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