N. Korea proves it has abil­ity to strike Guam

The Korea Times - - NATIONAL - By Kim Rahn rah­nita@ktimes.com

North Korea’s launch of a bal­lis­tic mis­sile Tues­day showed that its threat to strike Guam was not a bluff, as the mis­sile’s range was within the reach of the U.S. ter­ri­tory.

Al­though the di­rec­tion of the mis­sile was not south­ward to­ward Guam, the test-fir­ing proved Py­ongyang’s ear­lier threat for an “en­velop­ing fire around Guam” is fea­si­ble.

The mis­sile, which the South Korean au­thor­i­ties sus­pect to be a Hwa­song-12 in­ter­me­di­ate-range bal­lis­tic mis­sile (IRBM), flew more than 2,700 kilo­me­ters at a max­i­mum al­ti­tude of about 550 kilo­me­ters, ac­cord­ing to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).

The range showed a mis­sile fired from North Korea could reach Guam, about 3,000 kilo­me­ters away.

Ear­lier this month, Kim Rak-gyom, com­man­der of North Korea’s Strate­gic Forces, said that the mil­i­tary was con­sid­er­ing fir­ing four Hwa­song-12 IRBM mis­siles to­ward Guam si­mul­ta­ne­ously.

Tues­day’s mis­sile was launched east­ward over Ja­pan, but both the govern­ment and the po­lit­i­cal pun­dits pre­sume the test was not aimed at show­ing a pos­si­ble at­tack on Ja­pan but its ca­pac­ity to hit Guam.

“The mis­sile did not fly to­ward the di­rec­tion (Guam), but it was sig­nif­i­cant in terms of it be­ing a test of en­velop­ing fir­ing around Guam, which North Korea had de­clared,” a se­nior Cheong Wa Dae of­fi­cial said on con­di­tion of anonymity.

“We are se­ri­ously watch­ing the sit­u­a­tion be­cause the mis­sile flew over the ter­ri­to­rial wa­ters of Ja­pan and the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity will re­act sen­si­tively.”

The JCS also said it be­lieves the lat­est test was aimed at show­ing Py­ongyang’s ca­pac­ity to strike the U.S. base on Guam to which re­in­force­ments are dis­patched in case of a war on the Korean Penin­sula.

“The North men­tioned so-called en­velop­ing fir­ing around Guam and car­ried out the bal­lis­tic mis­sile test with a range pos­si­ble to reach it,” the JCS said in a press re­lease.

“This is in se­ri­ous de­fi­ance of the South Korean mil­i­tary and the South Korea-U.S. al­liance, so we con­demn it strongly.”

An­a­lysts said the IRBM test was also a protest against in­creas­ing sanc­tions by the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity, es­pe­cially the U.S. which im­posed a set of sanc­tions against 16 en­ti­ties and in­di­vid­u­als, mostly Chi­nese and Rus­sian, last week for fi­nanc­ing Py­ongyang’s weapons of mass de­struc­tion.

“North Korea may have been un­able to strike Guam di­rectly as it de­clared, be­cause it would mean a di­rect at­tack on the U.S., so the North seems to have cho­sen a provo­ca­tion that is sim­i­lar to the Guam at­tack (in terms of range),” Koh Yoo-hwan, a North Korean stud­ies pro­fes­sor at Dong­guk Univer­sity, said.

On Aug. 9, Py­ongyang men­tioned en­velop­ing strikes around Guam, which was coun­tered by U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s re­mark that the mil­i­tary was “locked and loaded.”

The height­ened ten­sion be­tween Py­ongyang and Wash­ing­ton along with ex­changes of such barbs sub­sided for a while af­ter North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said Aug. 14 he would watch the “fool­ish and stupid con­duct of the Yan­kees” a lit­tle more rather than im­me­di­ately strik­ing Guam. Re­spond­ing to it, Trump said on Twit­ter Aug. 16 that Kim made a “very wise and well rea­soned de­ci­sion.”

Ex­pec­ta­tions grew that such an at­mos­phere could open a pos­si­ble path to de-es­ca­lat­ing ten­sion and even to di­a­logue on de­nu­cle­ariza­tion. But the U.S. an­nounced the sanc­tions Aug. 22 and North Korea had two mis­sile tests each on Satur­day and Tues­day. What is ex­pected now are tougher sanc­tions against the North.

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