Korea war games as Kim Jong Un taunts US

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

BEI­JING: Ten­sions over North Korea’s July 4 missile test mounted yes­ter­day, with the US and South Korean forces con­duct­ing mil­i­tary ex­er­cises and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ap­pear­ing to per­son­ally taunt US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

The lat­est test launch was a dis­play of the North’s long­est-range weapon yet – an in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic missile with the pos­si­bly of hit­ting Alaska.

Be­fore his in­au­gu­ra­tion, Trump said North Korea’s plan to de­velop an in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic missile (ICBM) ca­pa­ble of hit­ting the US “won’t hap­pen” and has since made tough talk on the is­sue a sig­na­ture.

Now Trump could be forced into a dif­fi­cult test amid deep in­ter­na­tional di­vi­sions over how to re­spond to an in­creas­ingly de­fi­ant North Korea.

Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son has called for “global ac­tion” to counter North Korea. But in a joint state­ment is­sued late on Tues­day, Bei­jing and Moscow called for a “dou­ble sus­pen­sion” that would see Py­ongyang freeze its weapon pro­gramme and the US and South Korea stop joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cises.

In­stead, the ma­noeu­vres went ahead in what US Pa­cific Com­mand called an “iron­clad” show of re­solve. In one ex­er­cise, the US Army and the South Korea mil­i­tary fired missiles off the eastern coast of South Korea.

A US com­man­der warned that North Korea’s ac­tion threat­ened the tense bal­ance on the Korean Penin­sula in place since the end of the Korean War.

“Self-re­straint, which is a choice, is all that sep­a­rates armistice and war,” Gen­eral Vin­cent K Brooks, com­man­der of the US Forces Korea, and Gen­eral Lee Sun-jin, chair­man of the South’s joint chiefs of staff, said.

Mean­while, North Korea’s leader Kim threat­ened more tests and taunted Trump, call­ing the ICBM test an In­de­pen­dence Day gift, ac­cord­ing to North Korean state me­dia.

South Korean au­thor­i­ties de­scribed the North’s test as a twostage missile with a range of about 6 920km to 8 046km. That is enough to reach Alaska and other parts of North Amer­ica.

Daniel Pinkston, a lec­turer in in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions at Troy Uni­ver­sity in Seoul, said he saw no chance the US and South Korea would agree to halt joint ex­er­cises, es­pe­cially af­ter the North’s lat­est missile test.

But there also ap­pears to be very lit­tle in­ter­na­tional con­sen­sus on what to do next.

Deng Yuwen, a Bei­jing-based ex­pert on North Korea, sees a grow­ing di­vide be­tween the po­si­tions of the US, South Korea and Ja­pan, on one hand, and China and Rus­sia on the other. “Two op­pos­ing blocs have been formed,” he said.

South Korea’s de­fence min­is­ter, Han Min-koo, said there was high prob­a­bil­ity Py­ongyang would stage an­other nu­clear test. He also noted gains in their ef­forts to minia­turise a war­head – both steps to­ward de­vel­op­ing a nu­clear-tipped weapon ca­pa­ble of hit­ting main­land US.


South Korean sol­diers ride a K-1 tank dur­ing an ex­er­cise in Paju, near the bor­der with North Korea yes­ter­day.

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