N. Korea mis­sile tests boost re­gional arms

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - Mo­toko Rich ©2017 The New York Times

The si­mul­ta­ne­ous launch of four mis­siles could be a test for a “sat­u­ra­tion at­tack,” Ja­pan warns.

The ap­par­ent suc­cess TOKYO — of four si­mul­ta­ne­ous mis­sile launch­ings by North Korea on Mon­day raised new alarms about the threat to its neigh­bors and its progress to­ward de­vel­op­ing an abil­ity to over­come their bal­lis­tic mis­sile de­fense sys­tems, in­clud­ing those that have yet to be de­ployed.

Ac­cord­ing to the South Korean mil­i­tary, North Korea launched four bal­lis­tic mis­siles from its long-range rocket launch site Mon­day morn­ing.

In Ja­pan, an­a­lysts said the launches sug­gested that North Korea could pose a more se­ri­ous threat than in­di­cated by pre­vi­ous tests.

“That would mean a lot in terms of the de­fense of Tokyo, be­cause North Korea might have been con­duct­ing a sim­u­la­tion of a ‘sat­u­ra­tion at­tack’ in which they launch a num­ber of mis­siles si­mul­ta­ne­ously in or­der to sat­u­rate the mis­sile de­fense that Ja­pan has,” said Narushige Michishita, di­rec­tor of the Se­cu­rity and In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies Pro­gram at the Na­tional Grad­u­ate In­sti­tute for Pol­icy Stud­ies in Tokyo.

“It would be dif­fi­cult for Ja­pan to shoot down four mis­siles all at the same time be­cause of our lim­ited mis­sile de­fense.”

The mis­sile tests came three weeks af­ter North Korea tested a mis­sile dur­ing a U.S. visit by Ja­pan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, to meet with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

The launch Mon­day hap­pened as the United States and South Korea were con­duct­ing their an­nual joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cise. North Korea calls such drills a re­hearsal for in­va­sion and has of­ten re­sponded by con­duct­ing mis­sile tests.

Ja­pan’s coast guard sent out nav­i­ga­tion warn­ings and stepped up air and sea pa­trols Mon­day af­ter three of the mis­siles landed within the coun­try’s so-called exclusive eco­nomic zone, where fish­ing and cargo ships are ac­tive.

The fourth landed out­side it, though nearby.

This was not the first time that North Korean test mis­siles have fallen within that zone. In both Au­gust and Septem­ber last year, mis­siles came within 125 and 155 miles of the Ja­panese coast­line. Mon­day’s mis­siles landed about 185 to 220 miles west of Akita pre­fec­ture, on the north­ern coast of the main is­land, Hon­shu.

The Septem­ber launches in­volved three mis­siles fired si­mul­ta­ne­ously, but this time North Korea set off four mis­siles at once, all of which seemed to land suc­cess­fully.

Dur­ing a par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee ses­sion Mon­day morn­ing, Abe said that the launches “clearly rep­re­sent a new threat from North Korea.”

Ja­pan and the United States re­quested an emer­gency meet­ing of the United Na­tions Se­cu­rity Coun­cil to dis­cuss the launches, most likely for Wed­nes­day.

The mis­siles took off from Tongchang-ri, in north­west­ern North Korea, and flew an av­er­age of 620 miles be­fore fall­ing into the sea be­tween North Korea and Ja­pan, said Noh Jae-chon, a South Korean mil­i­tary spokesman.

The type of mis­sile fired was not im­me­di­ately clear, but Noh said it was un­likely that they were in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­siles, which the North had recently threat­ened to test launch.

In South Korea, the launch prompted South Korean se­cu­rity of­fi­cials to call for the early de­ploy­ment of the Ter­mi­nal High-Alti­tude Area De­fense Sys­tem, or THAAD, an ad­vanced U.S. anti-mis­sile sys­tem.

China has protested THAAD as a threat to its own nu­clear de­ter­rence be­cause its pow­er­ful radar would be able to track Chi­nese mis­sile launches.

Michishita, of the Na­tional Grad­u­ate In­sti­tute for Pol­icy Stud­ies, said the mis­sile launches could ac­cel­er­ate a dis­cus­sion within the Ja­panese gov­ern­ment about whether Ja­pan should ac­quire more mis­sile de­fense sys­tems, in­clud­ing THAAD. In Jan­uary, Ja­pan’s de­fense minister, To­momi Inada, vis­ited a U.S. Air Force base on Guam for a brief­ing on THAAD.

AHN YOUNG-JOON / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

South Korean army sol­diers ride on the back of a truck in Paju, near the bor­der with North Korea. That coun­try on Mon­day fired four banned bal­lis­tic mis­siles that flew about 620 miles, with three of them land­ing in Ja­pan’s exclusive eco­nomic zone, South Korean and Ja­panese of­fi­cials said.

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