Time to deploy ThaadNorth Korea once again fired a Musudan missile yesterday. The mid-range missile launched from a location in North Pyongan Province flew 500 kilometers (311 miles) into the East Sea. North Korea test-fired the missile eight times last year, but failed seven times. This time, the North succeeded in firing the missile after shortening the missile’s original range from over 3,000 kilometers to 500 kilometers. The Mususan missile can reach as far as Okinawa, where U.S. forces positioned to back-up the troops in South Korea are concentrated.
The North’s launch of the ballistic missile — its first this year — is the first since the inauguration of the Donald Trump administration in the U.S. Pyongyang took the action a day after Trump underscored the priority of the nuclear and missile threats shortly after a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The North’s latest move can translate into a brazen challenge to the Trump administration.
Our Air Force’s Green Pine Radar system and Navy’s Aegis ships traced the missile’s trajectory after immediately detecting it. That deserves our praise. Kim Kwan-jin, head of the National Security Office, also had a telephone conversation with his U.S. counterpart Michael Flynn to discuss the North’s unceasing missile provocations. It is fortunate that our national security system is working even amid a leadership vacuum after President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment.
Politicians also jumped on the security bandwagon. Moon Jae-in, former leader of the Democratic Party and a frontrunner in polls ahead of the next presidential election, condemned the North’s reckless move, while South Chungcheong Gov. An Hee-jung from the same party denounced it as a “clear violation of a UN Security Council resolution.”
What attracts our attention is the missile site’s close proximity to a nuclear facility. Security experts think it could help the North to load nuclear warheads onto its ballistic missiles — most likely on Musudan and Rodong missiles — more easily than before. If the North fires a nuclear bomb over a big city — whether in South Korea or Japan — it could cause massive casualties. The ruling and opposition parties as well as the international community must concentrate on preventing and countering the threats.
North Korea shooting a Musudan missile raises alarm bells because our Patriot missile system can hardly intercept it. But the Thaad system can defend against such an attack. The North must understand that its threats will only lead to our annihilation.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 13, Page 30