For quite some time North Korea, threatened by the US, South Korea and Japan, has been testing new missile capabilities to equal similar capabilities of neighboring nations and the US.
On Monday, North Korea fired at least one short-range ballistic missile that landed in the sea off its east coast into Japan’s maritime economic zone. It was the latest in a fast-paced series of missile tests defying world pressure and threats of more sanctions. The missile was believed to be a Scud-class ballistic missile and flew about 450 km (280 miles), South Korean officials said. North Korea has a large stockpile of the short-range missiles, originally developed by the Soviet Union.
It was the third ballistic missile test-launch (and the 12th this year) since South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in took office on May 10 pledging to engage with the reclusive neighbor in dialogue. Moon says sanctions alone have failed to resolve the growing threat from the North’s advancing nuclear and missile program.
The test is the latest launch by Pyongyang this year as the isolated regime steps up efforts to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile that can deliver a nuclear warhead to the continental USA
North Korea, which has conducted dozens of missile tests since the beginning of 2016 in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions, says the program is necessary to counter US aggression.
North Korea last test-fired a ballistic missile on May 21 off its east coast and said it had tested a new anti-aircraft weapon supervised by leader Kim Jong-Un. The North Korean regime has hundreds of artillery cannons and rocket launchers within range of one of the most densely populated cities on earth, which is the capital of South Korea. In the program “Face the Nation”, he said in the event of war, they would bring danger to China and to Russia as well.
Modified versions of the Scud have a range of up to 1,000 km (620 miles). Monday’s launch followed two successful tests of medium- to long-range missiles in as many weeks by the North, which has been conducting such tests at an unprecedented pace in an effort to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of hitting the mainland United States.
The launch comes in fresh defiance of tough talk from US President Donald Trump, who promised last week at the G7 summit that the “big problem” of North Korea “will be solved”.
North Korea has tested Scud-type, short-range missiles many times in the past, most recently in April, according to US officials. However, experts say it may be trying to test new capabilities that may be fed into its efforts to build an ICBM. “There are many possibilities It could have been a test for a different type of engine. Or to verify the credibility of the main engine for ICBM’s first stage rocket,” said Kim Dong-yub, a military expert at Kyungnam University’s Far Eastern Studies department in Seoul.
The missile launches, and Pyongyang’s threat to stage its sixth nuclear test, have prompted calls for tougher UN sanctions and a warning from Trump that military intervention was an option under consideration. US military monitors said the short-range missile flew for six minutes, while Japan said it fell into the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) — waters extending 200 nautical miles from its coast.
North Korea is likely showing its determination to push ahead in the face of international pressure to rein in its missile program and “to pressure the (South Korean) government to change its policy on the North”, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman Roh Jae-cheon said. The missile reached an altitude of 120 km (75 miles), Roh said. “The assessment is there was at least one missile but we are analyzing the number of missiles,” he said.
Japan lodged a protest against the test missile, which appeared to have landed in its exclusive economic zone. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe swiftly condemned the test and vowed concerted action along with its US ally. “We will never tolerate North Korea’s continued provocations that ignore repeated warnings by the international community,” Abe told reporters. “As agreed during the G7 summit, the North Korean problem is the international community’s top priority. In order to deter North Korea, we will take concrete action with the United States.”
South Korea’s Moon swiftly called a meeting of the National Security Council, South Korea’s Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. Seoul’s new liberal administration has said Pyongyang’s repeated test launches were dashing hopes for peace.
The White House said President Donald Trump had been briefed about the launch. The US Pacific Command said it tracked what appeared to be a short-range ballistic missile for six minutes and assessed it did not pose a threat to North America. The USA has said it was looking at discussing with China a new UN Security Council resolution and that Beijing, North Korea’s main diplomatic ally and neighbor, realizes time was limited to rein in its weapons program through negotiations. US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, asked what a military conflict with North Korea might look like if diplomacy failed, warned it would be “probably the worst kind of fighting in most people’s lifetimes”.
China reiterated that UN Security Council resolutions had “clear rules” about North Korean missile activities and it urged Pyongyang not to contravene them. “The situation on the Korean peninsula is complex and sensitive, and we hope all relevant sides maintain calm and exercise restraint, ease the tense situation as soon as possible and put the issue back onto the correct track of peaceful dialogue,” China’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
Russia condemned the launched and also called for restraint, “including towards military activity”, from the partners it was working with, the RIA news agency quoted a deputy Russian foreign minister as saying.
Despite US President Trump’s strident warnings, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said in an interview that aired before the launch that a war with North Korea would be “catastrophic.” “This regime is a threat to the region, to Japan, to South Korea. And in the event of war, they would bring danger to China and to Russia as well. But the bottom line is, it would be a catastrophic war if this turns into a combat, if we’re not able to resolve this situation through diplomatic means.”Mattis declined to say what kind of action from Pyongyang would constitute a “red line” for Washington, saying the administration needs “political maneuver room.”
Following North Korea’s test-firing of what analysts said was its longest-range rocket yet earlier this month, the UN Security Council vowed to push all countries to tighten sanctions against Pyongyang. But China, the North’s main trade partner and ally, has made it clear that the push for diplomatic talks — and not imposing more sanctions — is the priority. The US has said it is willing to enter into talks with North Korea — but only if it halts its missile and nuclear tests.
Meanwhile, the US will test an existing missile defense system on Tuesday to try to intercept an ICBM, officials said.
All said and done one thing is certain: there is no possibility of a missile war between North Korea and other competing powers or the USA precisely because any war would be disastrous for the war torn nations, as in the case of Afghanistan and Arab nations. The US is taking all precautions to deny any chance for North Korea to start a war and hence it is using China towards that purpose.