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Other View: North Korea's latest missile launch reckless challenge to international isolation

The following editorial appeared in Tuesday’s Yomiuri Shimbun:

North Korea’s latest missile launch is a reckless challenge against international efforts to contain the isolated nation. Military and diplomatic pressure on the North must be steadily intensified.

North Korea test-fired a short-range ballistic missile, believed to be a Scud, in the direction of the Sea of Japan. After flying about 400 kilometers, the missile fell into Japan’s exclusive economic zone in waters about 300 kilometers from the Oki Islands in Shimane Prefecture.

The North has launched missiles in each of three consecutive weeks. North Korea first launched a missile that landed in our nation’s EEZ in August last year—the latest missile launch marks the fourth such occasion.

The North’s latest action not only violated U.N. Security Council resolutions adopted against the country, but it could have caused damage to fishing boats and civilian aircraft. North Korea’s repeated provocations cannot be tolerated.

There are concerns that people may begin to feel North Korean missile launches are an everyday occurrence. “Thorough measures will be taken to secure the safety of the people,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe emphasized. The central government should facilitate even closer consultations with local governments in preparation for unforeseen circumstances, thereby swiftly improving and expanding arrangements aimed at dealing with such a situation, including evacuation drills.

The recent summit meeting of Group of Seven major nations in Taormina, Italy, issued an unprecedentedly strong message urging North Korea to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The latest missile launch was likely a bellicose response to the G-7 statement.

A day earlier, North Korean state media trumpeted the country’s success in test-firing a “new type” of antiaircraft interceptor missile. With the United States clearly in mind, Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea, dared to say his country should “completely spoil the enemy’s wild dream to command the air.”

China must step up sanctions

North Korea’s futile confrontational stance will only heighten tensions in the region.

In addition to the USS Carl Vinson, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier that is deployed in waters around the Korean Peninsula, the U.S. military is believed to be sending the USS Ronald Reagan to the region soon. The USS Nimitz is also likely to be dispatched, meaning three U.S. aircraft carriers could temporarily be deployed in the same area. That will likely serve as a deterrent to North Korea’s military threat.

One of the problems is China’s continual support for North Korea, as shown by its rejection of a proposal for the Security Council to impose additional sanctions on the North. Its actions have made the North all the more impudent.

Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi, who oversees his nation’s diplomacy, has arrived in Japan for talks with such figures as Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida. He should take positive steps with a view to imposing such effective sanctions on the North as restrictions on its crude oil supply.

Amid the North’s successive missile launches, the South Korean administration of President Moon Jae In approved a plan for a private South Korean organization to contact North Korea to extend humanitarian assistance. The planned contact is viewed as an attempt to facilitate an environment for realizing dialogue between the two nations’ authorities.

If the plan is aimed at dialogue for the sake of dialogue, it will do nothing to resolve the problems regarding the North’s nuclear and missile development. Regarding policies toward North Korea, South Korea is urged to maintain cooperative ties with Japan and the United States.

Other View: Give the Portland heroes the Presidential Medal of Freedom

As we honored and remembered over the Memorial Day weekend so many who have died for justice and freedom, I found myself inordinately haunted by the Portland, Oregon, stabbing of three men who came to the defense of two young women being bullied and harassed, allegedly by a white supremacist hurling anti-Muslim slurs. Two of the men died in the attack. The third was hospitalized in serious condition.

I nominate these three men — heroes all — for the Presidential Medal of Freedom. This medal, the highest civilian award given in the United States, recognizes those who have made “especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

I nominate these three heroes because President Donald Trump has a moral obligation to recognize them as martyrs in the battle for human rights. Good Samaritans who spontaneously rose up against hateful bigotry and harassment, these men placed themselves in harm’s way in defense of strangers. Two paid the ultimate price: Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche was a recent Reed College graduate in economics who had his whole life before him; Ricky John Best served this country in the U.S. Army for 23 years and was a devoted husband and father. Micah Fletcher, still recovering from his wounds, is a poet who won a 2013 competition with a poem against anti-Muslim prejudice.

I nominate these three heroes because Trump has a moral obligation to counteract the dangerous way in which he has fanned the flames of racism and xenophobia. In fall 2015, white nationalist Matthew Heimbach wrote: “Donald Trump is blowing the dog whistle for White racial interests harder than any other candidate.” In 2016, the incidence of hate crimes rose 23.3 percent, according to Brian Levin of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University at San Bernardino. Now, as the Trump administration overtly targets Muslims and other immigrants for vilification, the dog whistle has become a siren.

On Monday, Trump did state in his presidential Twitter account (@POTUS) that the attack was “unacceptable.” But Twitter commentary does not substitute for leadership, not on an issue of this magnitude, and it is worth noting that Trump didn’t bother to mention the incident to the 30,000,000 followers of his personal Twitter feed (@realDonaldTrump), a nuance that telegraphs the priorities of this administration.

If the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, so is the price of equality. When leaders normalize racism and bigotry, society can be quick to follow suit. This hideous hate crime will leave a terrible psychic scar on the families of the victims and on the nation, but it has also created a teachable moment. No award can heal the damage done by such a monstrosity, but by conveying the highest civilian honor on these beautiful individuals, the Trump administration can honor three shining examples of American values at their best.

Brugger: Why I'm a Democrat in Idaho

I’ve had some interesting conversations with Idaho Republicans this week that spurred some thoughts. I’m not naming names because these were all off the record. I’m also remembering other such conversations during the recent election cycle.

I haven’t always been a Democrat, but after living here for a couple of years and learning something about public policy in Idaho, I decided to throw my hand in with the blue party. I became a blue girl in a red state. That does not mean that I vote what is sometimes called a “straight ticket.”

I took my first political science course at American River Junior College in Sacramento, Calif. Since Sacramento is the state’s capitol, I was lucky enough to have a young representative from the bay area, Leo Ryan, a Democrat, as my instructor. He had been teaching high school social science before being elected and just wanted to keep his hand in.

This was 1968. The far left was militant and often violent. It was hard to hold the center, but Leo tried. He told us that he often got letters from people who said they were members of his party that “scared the …. out of him.” He felt that they were harming political discourse with their actions. He was later elected as a representative to Congress and was killed in the Jonestown massacre.

He validated my belief that American democracy works best in the middle. There is a useful tension between those who want to do something (everything?) now and those who want to say, “let’s think about it.” The states I’ve lived in seemed to be like that. When I moved to Idaho, I began to realize that we were effectively a one-party state, so I chose the other party.

Why would I do that? Because public policy was being set in the conservative party heavily influenced by its far right and increasingly by its militant alt-right wing. I saw two legislators I admired, Leon Smith and Chuck Coiner, forced out of office by the right wing of the party as they purified party thinking toward what seemed to be a libertarian agenda. I saw a legislator who openly refused to pay income tax allowed to maintain his position. I saw a governor who called a special legislative session to take school funding off property tax revenue and onto sales tax revenue where it took a huge hit during the recession. He, however, enjoyed a smaller tax bill for the substantial property he owns in the state.

When only one political party is elected to most state and local offices, the party spends more time working out the influence of its members than it does in responding to the constantly evolving needs of the people of Idaho. An office holder can give lip service to constituents while only worrying if party leaders will support challengers in the primary elections.

Most Idaho Democrats pay scant attention to the national party’s maneuverings. We spend our time listening to our neighbors. We engage our community and look for solutions to pressing problems. We gather facts to make our case. We oppose legislation that does not seem to serve the greater good.

Idaho Democrats do not want to take your gun away unless you’re a criminal. Most are both pro-life and pro-choice. We want to spend enough on education through the university level to make sure our youth can succeed in the 21st century. We want to manage our lands and water resources well, but we also know that they can be used with regulation for economic development. We are committed to the best possible life for everyone in our state.

Responsible Republicans want much the same things, of course. However, a vibrant Democratic party adds new perspectives. Republicans must consider these when they run for office and govern. For the time being, Democrats can’t have an incestuous outlook in Idaho. We must be open to new voices and wary of dogma. These facts could change, and I’ll try to be responsive. Now, though, I’m an Idaho Democrat.

Letter: You can't change history

You can’t change history

I agree with Mr. Denham in his letter to the editor on May 23, concerning American history. I feel the same way. History happens, and for bad or worse you cannot change it. You learn from it. I’m proud of my southern heritage and I’m proud to be an American. My ancestors fought for the South, not for slavery, but for states’ rights. Anyhow, those folks who don’t like our country or our history, they have the our country. Bottom line, you can’t change history by removing statues of our heroes. Enough said.

James Crouson,