TOKYO — The top American military officer in the Pacific said Wednesday that North Korea's recent military actions are "a recipe for a disaster" and warned against a sense of complacency in the face of increasing tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
Adm. Harry Harris Jr. made the remarks at a lecture for a Tokyo think tank after meeting with Japanese leaders that he said focused on North Korea's missile and nuclear programs.
North Korea test-launched a missile on Sunday that many experts believe could be its most advanced yet, flying higher and longer than any previous missile.
"Combining nuclear warheads with ballistic technology in the hands of a volatile leader like Kim Jong Un is a recipe for a disaster," Harris said. "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-equipped missile anywhere in the world."
The missile on Sunday was deliberately fired on a "lofted" trajectory — reaching more than 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles), which is higher than satellites in low Earth orbit — to test re-entry capabilities and place its "splash zone" in the open Pacific.
Harris, head of the United States Pacific Command, based in Hawaii, said North Korea is "closer to being able to deliver a nuclear-equipped missile anywhere in the world" and called for further coordination between the U.S., Japan and South Korea to deal with the threat.
He also obliquely criticized China for throwing up obstacles to the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, where Beijing has constructed island bases in the disputed waters, saying "we should fly, be able to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows."
While in Tokyo, Harris met Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Defense Minister Tomomi Inada.