U.S. Pacific Command chief Adm. Harry Harris on Wednesday called for all nations to implement “far stronger sanctions” to curb North Korea’s nuclear and missile ambitions, emphasizing that the country poses a threat to the “entire world.”
“The dangerous behavior by North Korea is not just a threat to the Korean Peninsula, it’s a threat to Japan, it’s a threat to China, it’s a threat to Russia,” Harris said at a lecture delivered in Tokyo, touching on Pyongyang’s latest missile test three days earlier.
North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency touted the success of the launch of what it said was a new type of ground-to-ground intermediate-range ballistic missile.
“Combining nuclear warheads with ballistic missile technology in the hands of a volatile leader like Kim Jong Un is a recipe for disaster,” the leader of the U.S. Pacific Command added during the event organized by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation.
North Korean issues dominated the talks between Harris and Japanese leaders Tuesday in Tokyo, he said. During a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the two reaffirmed the importance of closely cooperating together with South Korea to address the tense situation on the Korean Peninsula.
The commander also said, while there is some debate about weapon miniaturization and other technological advancements made by Pyongyang, reports of failed missile launches provide no relief.
“Kim Jong Un is not afraid to fail in public, and every test he makes is a success because it takes North Korea one step closer to being able to deliver a nuclear-tipped missile anywhere in the world,” he said.
Harris, meanwhile, reiterated U.S. reassurances that its defense commitment under a security treaty with Japan extends to the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which are claimed by China.
“We will defend (the) Senkakus just like we will defend Hokkaido, for example,” Harris said, referring to Japan’s northern main island.
The commander also highlighted the need to move ahead with a plan to relocate U.S. Air Station Futenma within the southern island prefecture of Okinawa, which has been agreed between Japan and U.S. governments but continues to face local opposition.
The relocation of the Futenma base from a crowded residential area in Ginowan to the Henoko coastal area in Nago “will improve our ability to defend Japan’s sovereignty while reducing operations in the most heavily populated parts of the island and enabling significant land return to the people and government of Japan,” Harris said.