Moon shift­ing to tough stance on NK

Pres­i­dent seeks de­ploy­ment of 4 THAAD launch­ers

The Korea Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Jun Ji-hye jjh@ktimes.com

Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in is ap­par­ently shift­ing his pol­icy on North Korea from ap­pease­ment to­ward a hawk­ish ap­proach fol­low­ing Py­ongyang’s con­tin­ued launch­ing of bal­lis­tic mis­siles with in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal range.

The large-scale provo­ca­tions are seen as the Kim Jong-un regime’s an­swer to the Moon govern­ment’s re­cent of­fer to hold mil­i­tary talks to ease ten­sions on the Korean Penin­sula as well as to the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity’s moves to im­pose harsher sanc­tions.

Fri­day night’s mis­sile test marked the sec­ond time for the North to launch the Hwa­song-14, which it claimed was an in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile (ICBM) ca­pa­ble of strik­ing tar­gets on the U.S. main­land, fol­low­ing the first one fired July 4.

The North fired the mis­sile into the East Sea from the vicin­ity of Mupy­ong-ri, Cha­gang Prov­ince, at around 11:41 p.m. Fri­day, ac­cord­ing to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).

The North’s state-run Korean Cen­tral News Agency (KCNA) said the Hwa­song-14 reached a max­i­mum al­ti­tude of 3,724.9 kilo­me­ters and flew about 998 kilo­me­ters for 47 min­utes.

So far, the Moon govern­ment has pur­sued a two-track pol­icy in deal­ing with the North, seek­ing di­a­logue and im­pos­ing sanc­tions at the same time, de­spite re­peated provo­ca­tions.

But an of­fi­cial from the pres­i­den­tial of­fice, ask­ing not to be named, said, “If the mis­sile were con­firmed as an ICBM, it would mean the North is close to cross­ing the red line.”

He added Pres­i­dent Moon is keep­ing all op­tions avail­able as the lat­est provo­ca­tion could bring about a “fun­da­men­tal change” to the se­cu­rity land­scape of North­east Asia.

The of­fi­cial, how­ever, said, “The door for di­a­logue with North Korea is still open al­though the govern­ment is step­ping up pres­sure on Py­ongyang.”

Most no­tably, Moon or­dered his aides to im­me­di­ately be­gin con­sul­ta­tion with the United States to “tem­po­rar­ily” de­ploy four ad­di­tional launch­ers of the Ter­mi­nal High Al­ti­tude Area De­fense (THAAD) sys­tem. The or­der was is­sued dur­ing an emer­gency Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil (NSC) ses­sion, presided over by the Pres­i­dent, Satur­day.

The or­der was con­sid­ered a sur­prise as Moon had crit­i­cized the for­mer Park Geun-hye govern­ment’s rush to de­ploy two launch­ers which are cur­rently in op­er­a­tion. The other four have been stored at a nearby U.S. mil­i­tary base. The Moon govern­ment ini­tially planned to make a fi­nal de­ci­sion over the com­plete de­ploy­ment af­ter con­duct­ing an en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact as­sess­ment of the site.

Moon’s or­der to push for the de­ploy­ment re­flects his will­ing­ness to en­hance the al­lies’ mis­sile de­fense against the North’s grow­ing threats, though he has to tol­er­ate ad­verse crit­i­cism from op­po­si­tion par­ties for flip-flop­ping.

Dur­ing the NSC ses­sion, Moon also or­dered his aides to be­gin con­sul­ta­tion with Wash­ing­ton to amend a 2012 re­vi­sion of mis­sile guide­lines to dou­ble the max­i­mum weight of a war­head to be mounted on Seoul’s 800-kilo­me­ter range bal­lis­tic mis­siles to 1 ton from the cur­rent 500 kilo­grams.

Such an or­der comes as the pay­load in­crease will bol­ster the na­tion’s ca­pa­bil­ity of strik­ing Py­ongyang’s un­der­ground bunker fa­cil­i­ties in which the North Korean lead­er­ship would take shel­ter in the event of war.

Moon’s other or­ders in­cluded stag­ing stronger mil­i­tary protests, in­clud- ing Seoul and Wash­ing­ton’s com­bined launch of their bal­lis­tic mis­siles.

The com­bined live-fire ex­er­cise took place near the East Sea on Satur­day morn­ing be­tween the Re­pub­lic of Korea Army and the Eighth U.S. Army (EUSA), dur­ing which the for­mer fired two Hyun­moo-2A bal­lis­tic mis­siles and the lat­ter launched two mis­siles from the Army Tac­ti­cal Mis­sile Sys­tem (ATACMS).

The U.S. also sent two B-1B bombers un­der the com­mand of U.S. Pa­cific Air Forces to the Korean Penin­sula in a show of force against the re­pres­sive state, Sun­day.

“Through­out the ap­prox­i­mately 10-hour mis­sion, the air­crews prac­ticed in­ter­cept and for­ma­tion train­ing, en­abling them to im­prove their com­bined ca­pa­bil­i­ties and tac­ti­cal skills,” the U.S. Pa­cific Air Forces said.

For its part, the U.S. Mis­sile De­fense Agency said that its armed forces car­ried out a suc­cess­ful test of the THAAD sys­tem, dur­ing which a medium-range mis­sile was launched from a C-17 air­craft fly­ing over the Pa­cific and a THAAD unit in Alaska “de­tected, tracked and in­ter­cepted the tar­get.”

Mean­while, the Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs and the Min­istry of Uni­fi­ca­tion are work­ing to draw up the na­tion’s own sanc­tions against the North upon the Pres­i­dent’s or­der.

For­eign Min­is­ter Kang Kyung-wha also urged the min­istry of­fi­cials to closely co­op­er­ate with al­lies in or­der for an emer­gency U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil (UNSC) ses­sion to be held at the ear­li­est pos­si­ble date and to draw up tougher sanc­tions.

Yon­hap

A North Korean Hwa­song-14 in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile is launched in this photo re­leased by the North’s state-run Korean Cen­tral News Agency, Satur­day. The mis­sile was launched from Cha­gang Prov­ince in north­ern North Korea, at 11:41 p.m., Fri­day.

AP-Yon­hap

A U.S. Air Force B-1B bomber, left, flies with South Korean F-15K fight­ers over Osan Air Base in Pyeong­taek, Gyeonggi Prov­ince, Sun­day. The U.S. flew two su­per­sonic bombers over the Korean Penin­sula in a show of force against North Korea fol­low­ing its lat­est in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile test.

Cour­tesy of ROK Joint Chiefs of Staff

The Army Tac­ti­cal Mis­sile Sys­tem (ATACMS) fires an Eighth U.S. Army sur­face-to-sur­face bal­lis­tic mis­sile dur­ing a Seoul-Wash­ing­ton com­bined live-fire ex­er­cise near the East Sea, Satur­day. The drill took place six hours af­ter North Korea fired an im­proved bal­lis­tic mis­sile with in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal range.

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