North Korea’s Missile Decision


In February of 2017, North Korean officials made a boastful declaration of the country’s capability to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles or ICBM. Less than a month after the declaration was made, North Kore fired four long-range missiles that landed within Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone or EEZ. This paper attempts to analyze how four newspaper organizations from different parts of the world covered the event. The articles published under the banner of The New York Times, South China Morning Post, The Japan Times, and The Korea Times shared specific information regarding the missile launch and the root cause that provoked North Korea’s decision to launch the said projectiles. However, an in-depth study of the four articles revealed differences in how the authors emphasized certain aspects of the incident. One can make the argument that these differences revealed the differing national interests or concerns espoused by the authors or the publisher of the said articles.

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Overview of the Articles

In the article published under The Japan Times banner, the title described North Korea’s missile launch of four ballistic missiles. Further details were revealed, especially explaining the likely reason for such action (Mie and Johnson 1). The author assumed that the missile firing was NK’s promised retaliation to the U.S. -South Korea military exercises a few weeks earlier.

One of the most alarming news aspects was the announcement that at least one of the missiles landed 190 miles or 300 kilometers from Japanese shores (Mie and Johnson 1). This was verified when further details were revealed, pointing to the fact that some of the projectiles landed near Japan’s northwest coast. To clarify the distance and the significance of the missile’s final resting place, the article highlighted that this occurrence was not without precedence. NK succeeded in launching long-range missiles that landed within Japan’s EEZ three times in the past.

The said article provided space in discussing the EEZ issue. The last time a similar event occurred within the country’s area of responsibility, the projectile landed near the Hokkaido area. The reporter did not elaborate on the implications of having a missile launch targeting the area near Hokkaido. However, one can assume that the Japanese people already understood the seriousness of the threat. This assertion was strengthened when the news report said there were no casualties or damage to ships or commercial airlines. The Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, condemned the missile launch. He stated that the act was in clear violations of the United Nations Security Council resolutions (Mie and Johnson 1).

The article written for The Korea Times started the discussion by focusing the spotlight on the long-range capability of NK’s missiles. This presentation was aided by an infographic detailing the distance covered by the missile relative to the origin of the missiles, the location of China, Japan, and South Korea.

SK’s acting Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-Ahn echoed the sentiments and frustrations of his Japanese counterpart. However, he said something that went beyond the rhetoric that was centered on threats and security concerns. Kyo-Ahn’s statements seemed to underscore a tangible fear regarding the lives of his compatriots.

The author clarified a critical aspect of the event when he said that there was no strong evidence to support the conclusion that the missiles had features associated with an ICBM-type projectile (Yonhap 1). Nevertheless, it was also reported that the 1,000-kilometer distance covered by NK’s rockets did not automatically resolve the issue concerning NK’s ability to develop ICBM capability. Military officials were quoted saying that the angle of attack could drastically increase the overall missile’s range. The reporter followed up the claim that these were not ICBM-type of missiles because four missiles were launched in relatively quick succession. It was implied that NK couldn’t develop such capability in a short period.

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The author also discussed the end goal of the missile test, which was to power the missile and landed it into the territories within Japan’s EEZ. He discussed the nature of the EEZ framework in terms of exclusive rights to explore and exploit the resources within these territorial waters.

The article also highlighted a critical piece of information. It was revealed that NK’s long-range missile test was not only in retaliation to the aforementioned joint military exercises, but it was also a response to a previous threat made by the American government to redeploy a nuclear warhead into South Korea to create a deterrence against its rivalry with North Korea. The report ended with a discussion regarding the impact of the war drills. Nevertheless, the U.S. government stated that the said drills were never made to prepare for a war against NK because these drills were defensive.

An article from South China Morning Post opened the discussion by emphasizing the diplomatic nightmare created by NK’s missile launch. The report mentioned the Sea of Japan and the landing site of the projectiles fired earlier that day. The report’s backdrop was the announcement that North Korean officials in February of 2017 regarding the country’s capability to launch an ICBM armed with a nuclear warhead (Associated Press 1). The report underscored the seriousness of the threat because last year, NK officials also reported successful nuclear tests.

The article ended with multiple references to the United States. First, an assumption that the missile launch was not only a protest against the joint military exercises within the Korean Peninsula, but it was also a way to challenge the Trump administration’s capability to respond to a crisis or an imminent threat of nuclear war. Second, the author highlighted the issue regarding NK’s future power to unleash a long-range missile capable of hitting American shores.

The article written under The New York Times started the discussion by emphasizing South Korea’s tactical response (Sang-Hun 1). The author said that the missile launch compelled the early deployment of an American missile defense system that SK procured from the United States. The author deemed it necessary to release this critical news information because the action drew an adverse reaction from China. Unlike the other articles mentioned earlier, The New York Times report immediately disclosed that even SK’s military experts were unsure if the projectiles shared features with an ICBM type weapon.

It was also made clear that the missile system was named the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense or THAAD. The report also disclosed that the deployment of the said defense system was inevitable because there was a prior agreement with the United States government to utilize the said system as a nuclear deterrent. Nevertheless, China did not welcome this development and hinted at using economic sanctions against SK.

The report expounded on SK’s call for help, specifically to encourage America’s greater participation in creating a nuclear deterrent in the region. The author also repeated vital issues that were raised in the earlier reports. For example, there was a discussion on the suggestion to reintroduce nuclear weapons to SK to negate NK’s increasing nuclear threats. The author ended the report mentioning the announcement that NK leader Kim Jong-un made at the beginning of the year regarding his country’s capability to launch an ICBM-type of the missile. The author also provided the triggering mechanism of the said incident, mentioning the joint war drills conducted by both the U.S. and South Korea’s military forces. These drills were perceived as a part of a larger military scheme that NK labeled as a prelude to an invasion.

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Compare and Contrast

The articles shared common ground when it comes to several key facets of the issue. For example, there were similar reports regarding the missile launch location and the final resting place of the projectiles. Several authors made reference to the Sea of Japan, specifically the country’s EEZ. There was also a shared agreement with the role of the United States. On the one hand, the American forces in the area were considered deterrents, but at the same time, U.S. forces were also seen to provoke the launching of missiles.

There was also agreement regarding the impact of the nuclear deterrence suggested by the American government. In other words, it was not enough to hold military exercises and to maintain a significant military force within the region. There was also discussion on redeploying a system to level the playing field so-to-speak. Such actions call for the arming of SK with the use of nuclear warheads.

The authors also discussed the reaction of China, but there were a few that emphasized how China reacted negatively to the radical stance of SK to counter the said threat. It was mentioned that China did not respond kindly to utilizing a missile defense system that SK developed with the help of the United States.

Also, it is also interesting to note how the authors downplayed the boast that NK made regarding the ICBM-type of missiles that they were capable of launching. The authors were in agreement that it was difficult to verify the capability of the missiles if indeed these projectiles share the same features as conventional inter-continental ballistic missiles.

There were also differences in the emphasis and the focus of the discussions. For example, in the article published under a Japanese newsmaker, the focus was on the Prime Minister’s call for greater participation from SK and, more importantly, from the United States. In this article, it was made clear that the Japanese government wanted to leverage the power of the international community to contain the growing threat of NK’s nuclear capability.

There were also differences in the way they handled the impact or perceived impact of the threat. One can argue that the tone of the article from the Japanese newspaper was characterized by fear, mostly because some of the projectiles that were launched in the past were close to areas of significant commercial activity. It is interesting to note that South Korea is the nearest neighbor to North Korea, but with the recent missile launch, the fear of destruction was mostly felt in Japan, where the missiles landed close to the country’s EEZ.

The article published under a Korean newspaper revealed panic because it seems that the government officials and concerned citizens needed immediate action from allies, especially from the U.S. government. This is in great contrast to the article that was published under a Chinese newspaper. An in-depth look into the article seemed to suggest that the author wanted the global attention to focus not only on NK but also the United States. It appears that the article wished to the world to see how the United States has affected the balance of power within the region.

It is also essential to highlight the emphasis made by the article published under a U.S.-based newspaper. It is interesting to note that priority was given on the U.S. involvement with the conflict between North Korea and South Korea. It seemed to suggest that the publisher or the author wanted to discuss these concepts and ideas regarding the United States’ role in the said conflict.

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Making History

It is essential to point out the differences in the worldview of the four articles that were published in different parts of the world. It seems to reveal the concerns and national interests of the authors or the publishers. One can make the argument that the interpretation of the facts depended on the immediate impact it may create with the reporter’s homeland or its national security concerns. Thus, the emphasis shifted often between these articles from the technology behind the missiles to the diplomatic impact of the said event.

It is crucial to have a realistic view of the creation of news articles. Indeed, these reporters strived so hard to tell the truth. However, even if they tried their best to develop an objective article describing the facts of the incident, it is impossible to filter out the national security concerns and the human element in the story. In this case, it was hard to ignore the destructive threat of nuclear war, even as the story required greater coverage when it came to the diplomatic and military aspects of the crisis.


The four articles shared common ground with regards to critical facets of the reported incident. However, during the development of the articles, one can perceive shifting emphasis. In the end, it was made clear that the focus of the writing was on issues that had a direct impact on the reporter’s home country. Thus, the Japanese article focused on citizens’ safety, while the Chinese article focused on diplomacy. The U.S. based writer, on the other hand, produced an article that focused on the role of the United States as a perceived protector of freedom. The Korean article, on the other hand, emphasized the need for greater assistance from its allies. It is imperative to know the motivation of the authors and the publishers to appreciate the history-making capacity of news stories while having one eye focused on its subjective nature because news agencies and writers are heavily influenced not only by the political forces within their country of origin but also on the most critical issues that they need to resolve at the moment.

Works Cited

Associated Press. “North Korea Fires Ballistic Missiles Into Japanese Waters Prompting Stern Protest from PM Abe.” South China Morning Post. 2017. Web.

Mie, Ayako and Jesse Johnson. “Abe Says Latest North Korean Missile Launch Represents New Level of Threat.” The Japan Times. 2017. Web.

Sang-Hun, Choe. “North Korea’s Launch of Ballistic Missiles Raise New Worries.” The New York Times. 2017, Web.

Yonhap, H. “North Korea Fires Four Ballistic Missiles in Protest of Seoul-Washington Joint Military Drill.” The Korea Times. 2017. Web.

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