NKorea leader urges more mis­sile launches tar­get­ing Pa­cific

Sun.Star Pampanga - - WORLD! -

Tues­day's ag­gres­sive mis­sile launch — likely the long­est ever from North Korea — over a close US ally sends a clear mes­sage of de­fi­ance as Wash­ing­ton and Seoul con­duct an­nual mil­i­tary drills. The Korean Cen­tral News Agency said the launch was a "mus­cle-flex­ing" coun­ter­mea­sure to the Ulchi Free­dom Guardian joint ex­er­cises that con­clude Thurs­day. Py­ongyang views the drills as in­va­sion re­hearsals and of­ten con­ducts weapons tests and es­ca­lates its rhetoric when they are held.

The KCNA re­port said the mis­sile was an in­ter­me­di­ate-range Hwa­song12, which the North first suc­cess­fully tested in May and threat­ened to fire into wa­ters near Guam ear­lier this month.

Kim ex­pressed "great sat­is­fac­tion" over the launch that he called a "mean­ing­ful pre­lude" to con­tain­ing Guam and said North Korea would con­tinue to watch the US de­meanor be­fore it de­cides future ac­tions, KCNA said.

The US ter­ri­tory is home to key US mil­i­tary bases that North Korea finds threat­en­ing.

Kim also said it's "nec­es­sary to pos­i­tively push for­ward the work for putting the strate­gic force on a mod­ern ba­sis by con­duct­ing more bal­lis­tic rocket launch­ing drills with the Pa­cific as a tar­get in the future."

The launch seemed de­signed to show that North Korea can back up a threat to tar­get Guam, if it chooses to do so, while also es­tab­lish­ing a po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous prece­dent that could see future mis­siles fly­ing over Ja­pan.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said the mis­sile trav­eled around 2,700 kilo­me­ters (1,677 miles) and reached a max­i­mum height of 550 kilo­me­ters (341 miles) as it flew over the north­ern Ja­panese is­land of Hokkaido.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said North Korea had sig­naled its "con­tempt for its neigh­bors" and that "all op­tions are on the ta­ble" in terms of a US re­sponse. Trump said in his state­ment that "threat­en­ing and desta­bi­liz­ing ac­tions only in­crease the North Korean regime's iso­la­tion in the re­gion and among all na­tions of the world."

The UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil strongly con­demned the launch, which came less than a month af­ter the coun­cil im­posed its tough­est-yet sanc­tions on North Korea. The state­ment re­leased af­ter a meet­ing Tues­day evening in New York doesn't men­tion any po­ten­tial new sanc­tions but calls for strict im­ple­men­ta­tion of ex­ist­ing ones.

Any new test wor­ries Wash­ing­ton and its al­lies be­cause it pre­sum­ably puts North Korea a step closer to its goal of an ar­se­nal of nu­clear mis­siles that can re­li­ably tar­get the United States. Tues­day's test, how­ever, looks es­pe­cially ag­gres­sive to Wash­ing­ton, Seoul and Tokyo.

North Korea has con­ducted launches at an un­usu­ally fast pace this year — 13 times, Seoul said — and some an­a­lysts be­lieve it could have vi­able long-range nu­clear mis­siles be­fore the end of Trump's first term in early 2021.

Seoul says that while North Korea has twice be­fore fired rock­ets it said were car­ry­ing satel­lites over Ja­pan — in 1998 and 2009 — it has never be­fore used a bal­lis­tic mis­sile, which is un­am­bigu­ously de­signed for mil­i­tary strikes.

North Korea also chose not to fire its most re­cent mis­sile at a lofted an­gle, as it did in pre­vi­ous launches to avoid other coun­tries, and Seoul's spy ser­vice said the North launched from an un­usual spot: the in­ter­na­tional air­port in its cap­i­tal, Py­ongyang. The North still claimed on Wed­nes­day that its re­cent launch "had no im­pact on the se­cu­rity of the neigh­bor­ing coun­tries."

Some out­side ob­servers said launch­ing a road­mo­bile mis­sile from an air­port run­way could demon­strate the North's abil­ity to fire its mis­siles from any­where in the coun­try.

The launch is also an­other re­buke to Trump, who sug­gested last week that his tough ap­proach to North Korea, which in­cluded threats to un­leash "fire and fury," meant Kim "is start­ing to re­spect us."

Tues­day's mis­sile landed nowhere near Guam, but fir­ing a Hwa­song-12 so soon af­ter the threat may be a way for North Korea to show it could fol­low through if it chose to do so. Guam is 3,400 kilo­me­ters (2,110 miles) away from North Korea, but South Korea's mil­i­tary said the North may have fired the mis­sile at a shorter range.

Guam's civil de­fense of­fice said the mis­sile was de­ter­mined to not be a threat. Res­i­dents said they were not wor­ried, for now. Ed­die Cruz, 60, said he is con­cerned that with each mis­sile launch, North Korea is get­ting bet­ter. "They're prac­tic­ing, and that's ex­actly what I'm wor­ried about," he said.

North Korea will no doubt be watch­ing the world's re­ac­tion to see if it can use the same flight path for future launches.

Ja­panese of­fi­cials made their usual strongly worded con­dem­na­tions of the l au n ch .

"We will do our ut­most to pro­tect peo­ple's lives," Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe said. "This reck­less act of launch­ing a mis­sile that flies over our coun­try is an un­prece­dented, se­ri­ous and im­por­tant threat."

Tokyo said there was no re­ported dam­age from the mis­sile. Res­i­dents on Hokkaido were warned by loud­speak­ers, phone alerts and an email that told them to stay in­doors.

The launch was also con­demned by UN Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res, Bri­tain, France, Ger­many, Rus­sia, and a num­ber of other count r i es.

Tues­day's launch came days af­ter North Korea fired what was as­sessed as three short-range bal­lis­tic mis­siles into the sea, and a month af­ter its sec­ond test of an in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile, which an­a­lysts say could reach deep into the US main­land when p er f ect ed .

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