Turning point for PyongyangA North Korean senior diplomat’s remarks in Beijing at a seminar on the Northeast Asia Cooperation Dialogue reaffirmed Pyongyang’s determination to press ahead with nuclear development regardless of the international community’s toughest-ever sanctions over its nuclear and missile provocations. Choe Sun-hee, the North’s deputy representative in the six-party talks, declared that the multiparty platform is dead if it sticks to its original purpose of denuclearizing the North. Her statement reflect the elation North Koreans feel after the successful test-launch Thursday of a Musudan missile, the North’s intermediate-range missile (IRBM), after five failures.
It can directly target a U.S. Air Force base in Okinawa, where a rapid deployment force is stationed to be dispatched to the Korean Peninsula in an emergency, and Anderson Air Force Base in Guam, which is home to U.S. B-2 and B-52 strategic bombers. If a war breaks out, a Musudan could deal a heavy blow to the Korea-U.S. alliance. The fact that the missile fell without a hitch after ascending to a 1,000-kilometer (621-mile) altitude could signal the North’s progress in acquiring reentry technology for its intercontinental ballistic missiles.
If North Korea fires an IRBM loaded with a big warhead at a high angle at the speed of Mach 10 — as it did this time — to attack a South Korean target 400 kilometers away, we can hardly block it with the Korea Air and Missile Defense (KAMD) or Thaad Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) systems. If the North loads Mududan missiles onto its submarines, that will pose a formidable threat to us. We can’t rule out the possibility of the North deploying the missile on a vessel disguised as a merchant ship.
The government must reinforce its defense systems to deal with the North’s real threats. Our military must elevate the capability of our “Kill Chain” system aimed at destroying North Korean missiles before they are launched and the KAMD system aimed at intercepting incoming North Korean missiles at terminal stages.
The launch could be a turning point in Pyongyang’s relations with other countries as a nuclear power. We must let the North realize that scrapping its nuclear ambition is the only way to survive. But at the same time, the government must demonstrate flexibility. When high-level meetings between Pyongyang and Beijing are increasing, the government cannot stick to hardline policies.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jun. 24, Page 34