North Korean long-range missile lands off Japan during APEC summit

BenarNews and RFA Staff
North Korean long-range missile lands off Japan during APEC summit U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris (center) arrives at the 29th APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, Nov. 18, 2022.
Diego Azubel/Pool via Reuters

Updated at 5:59 a.m. ET on 2022-11-18

South Korea, Japan and the United States held emergency talks Friday on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit after North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile that landed off the Japanese coast.

U.S. allies Australia, Canada and New Zealand joined the discussion.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters in Bangkok that the missile is believed “to have landed west of Hokkaido, inside Japan’s EEZ (exclusive economic zone).”

Kishida said such provocative actions that North Korea has repeated with “unprecedented frequency” are “absolutely unacceptable.”

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said the missile launch was a “brazen violation” of United Nations resolutions and destabilizing for the region.

The protests will likely fall on deaf ears as North Korea is not a member of APEC and rarely takes part in multilateral events.

It is the North’s second intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, launch this month. On Nov. 3, it fired another ICBM among a volley of launches to protest military drills by South Korea and the U.S.

Friday’s missile landed about 210 km (126 miles) off Hokkaido, at around 11:20 a.m. local time. It is believed to have sufficient range to reach anywhere in the U.S. mainland.

Intercontinental ballistic missiles, designed to carry nuclear warheads, are the longest-range weapons possessed by North Korea.

Big power competition

Geopolitics and big power competition once again threaten to dominate the agenda of the third meeting of world leaders in two weeks.

The host, Thailand, has called on participating nations to “rise above differences” and focus on sustainable economic growth and development.

Established in 1989 to promote free trade in the region, APEC unites 21 members including the world’s two largest economies, China and the United States.

Beijing and Washington have been locked in a fierce rivalry over political influence and unsolved issues in trade and security including tensions in the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who arrived in Bangkok on Thursday after attending the Group of 20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia, spoke of a mounting “Cold War mentality, hegemonism, unilateralism and protectionism.”

Xi did not mention any specific country but said “Asia-Pacific is no one’s backyard and should not become an arena for a big power contest.

“No attempt to wage a new Cold War will ever be allowed by the people or by our times.”

Earlier this week in Bali, the Chinese president and his U.S. counterpart met in person for the first time since Joe Biden took office two years ago.

Afterward, Biden said “there need not be a new Cold War.”

He also said the U.S. “will continue to compete vigorously” with China but “this competition should not veer into conflict.”

The U.S. president is not present at the APEC summit because he returned to Washington for a family event. Vice President Kamala Harris arrived in Bangkok on Thursday night to take his place.

Potential flashpoints

U.S. officials said Harris would visit Palawan island in the South China Sea on Tuesday. She will be the most senior U.S. official to visit the Philippine province.

Palawan sits on the edge of the disputed waters claimed by several countries in the region including China and the visit may be seen by Beijing as provocative.

China claims “historic rights” to almost 90 percent of the South China Sea and has been militarizing some of its artificial islands despite protests from neighboring countries.

Another flashpoint between Beijing and Washington is Taiwan, which Xi described as “the core of China’s core interests,” and “the first insurmountable red line in U.S.-China relations.”

APEC provides a rare opportunity to send an envoy to an international summit, with the island again represented by Morris Chang, 91, the founder of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp.

Normally Beijing would protest against any presence of Taiwanese representatives at international forums, but Chang’s attendance shows the importance of Taiwan as one of the world’s leading technology suppliers, said Norah Huang, associate research fellow at the Prospect Foundation, a Taiwanese think-tank.

“Morris Chang has been Taiwan’s special envoy to the APEC leaders summit for six times so his presence shouldn’t be a problem to Xi,” Huang told Radio Free Asia, a news service affiliated with BenarNews.

“If Taiwan sent a serving politician, the Chinese would be very unhappy,” she said.

Political circles in Beijing see Chang’s attendance in a different light.

Gao Zhikai, vice president of the Beijing-based Center for China and Globalization, said APEC “counts on economies, rather than sovereign countries, as members” so Taiwan and Hong Kong can take part.

“China is perfectly fine with this arrangement,” Gao told RFA.

 “The U.N. and many other international organizations only admit sovereign countries as members, and Taiwan is not a sovereign country,” he said.

Chang’s company is the world’s largest chip producer and it has helped Taiwan secure the position as one of China’s main semiconductor suppliers.

Disrupted supply chain

China imports chips valued at U.S. $300 billion each year, more than any other commodities.

As the island’s APEC special envoy, Chang “should seek to draw the attention of APEC members to Taiwan’s key influence in global supply chains,” Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen told reporters in October.

Tsai also said Taiwan is willing to collaborate with its regional partners to “develop a framework for inclusive and sustainable economic development.”

Taiwan’s unusual position in the global supply chains highlights the need for stability and sustainability in the region’s economic recovery.

In his summit address, Xi urged APEC members to build stable and unimpeded industrial and supply chains.

“By nature, having this kind of meeting among top leaders is a good thing, especially because geopolitical tensions have risen while COVID has precluded in-person dialogues,” said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at the prestigious Chulalongkorn University in Thailand.

“Ice-breaking and tension reduction are best done in person,” he said.

 “APEC is still relevant and effective for pooling together leading multinationals across crucial economies,” the political analyst said.

A Buddhist monk scuffles with riot police at Democracy Monument as APEC leaders meet nearby, Nov. 18, 2022. [Nava Sangthong/BenarNews]

Bangkok protests

The APEC summit, which ends Saturday, is taking place amid high security in the Thai capital. On Friday, anti-government protesters clashed with riot police near Democracy Monument, about seven km (four miles) from the summit venue.

Protest leader Patsaravalee Tanakitvibulpon said five were injured in clashes with police, adding officers fired rubber bullets. More than two dozen protesters were arrested according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, a claim confirmed by the police.

“We arrested 25 people and charged them with breaking the law on public gatherings, vandalism, and arson among other offenses,” said police Maj. Gen. Achayon Kraithong, spokesman for the Royal Thai Police.

“There were some 350 protesters breaking the rules. Officials tried to negotiate with them but they did not listen. They even hurt the police, throwing rocks at them, vandalized trucks and other things,” he said.

Update: This story has been updated to add details of protests in Bangkok, the U.S. vice president’s plan to visit Palawan and Taiwan’s presence at APEC .


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