Talks with North ‘impossible,’ S. Korean prez says
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea conducted its longest test flight yet of a ballistic missile Friday, sending an intermediaterange weapon hurtling over U.S. ally Japan into the northern Pacific Ocean in a launch that signals both defiance of its rivals and a big technological advance.
Since U.S. President Donald Trump threatened North Korea with “fire and fury” in August, the North has conducted its most powerful nuclear test, threatened to send missiles into the waters around the U.S. Pacific island territory of Guam and launched two missiles of increasing range over Japan. July saw its first tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles that could strike deep into the U.S. mainland when perfected.
The growing frequency, power and confidence displayed by these tests seem to confirm what governments and outside experts have long feared: North Korea is closer than ever to its goal of building a military arsenal that can viably target both U.S. troops in Asia and the U.S. homeland. This, in turn, is meant to allow North Korea greater military freedom in the region by raising doubts in Seoul and Tokyo that Washington would risk the annihilation of a U.S. city to protect its Asian allies.
UN Secretary- General Antonio Guterres condemned the missile launch as a serious violation of Security Council resolutions coming less than two weeks after the North’s sixth nuclear test, which also violated a UN ban.
On Monday, the UN unanimously approved its toughest sanctions yet on North Korea over its nuclear test.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the latest missile travelled about 3,700 km and reached a maximum height of 770 km. Guam, which is the home of important U.S. military assets, is 3,400 km away from North Korea.
North Korea’s weapons tests demonstrate that it can “turn the American empire into a sea in flames through sudden surprise attack from any region and area,” North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper said Friday, without mentioning the latest missile test.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, a liberal who initially pushed for talks with North Korea, said its tests currently make dialogue “impossible.”
“The sanctions and pressure by the international community will only tighten so that North Korea has no choice but to take the path for genuine dialogue” for nuclear disarmament, Moon said. “If North Korea provokes us or our allies, we have the strength to smash the attempt at an early stage and inflict a level of damage it would be impossible to recover from.”
North Korea has repeatedly vowed to continue its weapons tests amid what it calls U.S. hostility — by which it means the presence of nearly 80,000 U.S. troops stationed in Japan and South Korea. International diplomacy on the issue has been stalled for years, and there’s little sign that senior officials from North Korea and the U.S. might sit down to discuss ways to slow the North’s determined march toward inclusion among the world’s nuclear weapons powers.
Friday’s test, which Seoul said was the 19th launch of a ballistic missile by North Korea this year, triggered sirens and warning messages in northern Japan but caused no apparent damage to aircraft or ships.
The missile was launched from Sunan, the location of Pyongyang ’s international airport and the origin of the earlier missile that flew over Japan. Analysts have speculated the new test was of the same intermediate-range missile launched in that earlier flight, the Hwasong-12, and was meant to show Washington that North Korea can hit Guam if it chose to do so.
South Korea detected North Korean launch preparations Thursday, and Moon ordered a live-fire ballistic missile drill if the launch happened. This allowed Seoul to fire its missiles only six minutes after the North’s launch Friday.
One of the two missiles hit a sea target about 250 km away, which was approximately the distance to Pyongyang ’s Sunan, but the other failed in flight shortly after launch, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.