N. Korea fires mis­sile over Ja­pan, into sea

Tests seem to con­firm na­tion clos­ing in on mil­i­tary goals

Yuma Sun - - OPINION -

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea fired an in­ter­me­di­ate-range mis­sile over Ja­pan into the north­ern Pa­cific Ocean on Fri­day, U.S. and South Korean mil­i­taries said, its longestever such flight and a clear mes­sage of de­fi­ance to its ri­vals.

Since Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump threat­ened the North with “fire and fury” in Au­gust, Py­ongyang has con­ducted its most pow­er­ful nu­clear test, threat­ened to send mis­siles into the wa­ters around Guam and launched two mis­siles of in­creas­ing range over U.S. ally Ja­pan. It tested its first-ever in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­siles in July.

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.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the mis­sile trav­eled about 3,700 kilo­me­ters (2,300 miles) and reached a max­i­mum height of 770 kilo­me­ters (478 miles).

North Korea has re­peat­edly vowed to con­tinue th­ese tests amid what it calls U.S. hos­til­ity — by which it means the pres­ence of tens of thou­sands of U.S. troops in Ja­pan and South Korea. Ro­bust diplo­macy on the is­sue has been stalled for years, and there’s lit­tle sign that se­nior of­fi­cials from Py­ongyang and Wash­ing­ton might sit down to dis­cuss ways to slow the North’s de­ter­mined march to­ward in­clu­sion among the world’s nu­clear weapons pow­ers.

Fri­day’s mis­sile, which Seoul said was the 19th bal­lis­tic mis­sile launched by North Korea this year, trig­gered sirens and warn­ing mes­sages in north­ern Ja­pan but caused no ap­par­ent dam­age to air­craft or ships. It was the sec­ond mis­sile fired over Ja­pan in less than a month. North Korea con­ducted its sixth and most pow­er­ful nu­clear test on Sept. 3.

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.

That mis­sile is linked to North Korea’s dec­la­ra­tion that it means to con­tain the U.S. Pa­cific is­land ter­ri­tory of Guam, which is the home of im­por­tant U.S. mil­i­tary as­sets and ap­pears well within the Hwa­song-12’s range.

Fri­day’s mis­sile test was met with the usual out­rage. South Korean Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in or­dered his mil­i­tary to con­duct a live-fire bal­lis­tic mis­sile drill in re­sponse to the North Korean launch and in­structed gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials to pur­sue “stern” mea­sures to dis­cour­age Py­ongyang from fur­ther provo­ca­tions. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said one of the two mis­siles fired in the drill hit a sea tar­get about 250 kilo­me­ters (155 miles) away, which was ap­prox­i­mately the dis­tance to Py­ongyang’s Su­nan, but the other failed in flight shortly after launch.

Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe and U.S. De­fense Sec­re­tary Jim Mat­tis both called the North Korean launch a reck­less act.

The U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil sched­uled an emer­gency closed-door meet­ing to be held Fri­day af­ter­noon in New York. Trump has not com­mented.

The North Amer­i­can Aero­space De­fense Com­mand and the U.S. Pa­cific Com­mand said the mis­sile posed no threat to North America or to Guam.

South Korean ex­perts have said North Korea wants to make mis­siles fly­ing over Ja­pan an ac­cepted norm as it seeks to win more mil­i­tary space in a re­gion dom­i­nated by its en­e­mies.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A WOMAN WATCHES A TV SCREEN show­ing a file footage of North Korea’s mis­sile launch, at the Seoul Rail­way Sta­tion in Seoul, South Korea, Fri­day. South Korea’s mil­i­tary said North Korea fired an uniden­ti­fied mis­sile Fri­day from its cap­i­tal Py­ongyang that flew over Ja­pan be­fore land­ing in the north­ern Pa­cific Ocean. The signs read “Ja­pan protests North Korea’s mis­sile launch.”

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