Talks with North ‘im­pos­si­ble,’ S. Korean prez says

The Daily Observer - - WORLD NEWS - KIM TONG-HYUNG and FOSTER KLUG

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.

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