North fires its third missile since inauguration

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North fires its third missile since inauguration

North Korea carried out its ninth missile test this year and the third since the inauguration of South Korean President Moon Jae-in, firing Monday morning a short-range Scud missile that flew 450 kilometers (280 miles) after peaking at an altitude of 120 kilometers, according to local military officials.

The projectile was fired at 5:39 a.m. from the eastern coastal city of Wonsan, in Kangwon Province, said South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. The U.S. Pacific Command said the missile flew for about six minutes before landing in waters between North Korea and Japan.

A North Korean Scud missile is known to have a maximum flight capacity of 500 kilometers, enough to cover most of South Korea but not all of it.

President Moon convened a National Security Council meeting at the Blue House at 7:30 a.m. The session was presided over by Moon’s national security adviser Chung Eui-yong and participated in by National Defense Minister Han Min-koo, Foreign Affairs Minister Yun Byung-se, Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo, National Intelligence Service Director Lee Byung-ho and others.

It appears Pyongyang is trying to pressure the new liberal Moon administration to adopt a North Korea policy more engaging of the regime, said a local Defense Ministry official, while showing the rest of the world it was unfazed by their economic sanctions.

Later in the evening, Blue House spokesman Park Soo-hyun told local journalists that Moon had his first phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron in which he said that the South Korean government would pursue “a transformation in South-North relations” under his leadership.

Moon said that both of the Koreas will have to “play leading roles on issues” related to the Korean Peninsula and that unlike the past two conservative administrations, Seoul will adopt a two-track approach that pressures Pyongyang to scrap its nuclear and missile programs while engaging in bilateral talks.

The prerequisite to those initiatives, Moon told Macron, was that Pyongyang would have to “at least halt any additional nuclear experiment or missile test” in the future and “be prepared to come to the negotiation table for North Korean denucearization.”

Spokesman Park said Moon would “thoroughly” talk to U.S. President Donald Trump about his plan.

Yet, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry “strongly condemned” the North’s missile test in a statement Monday, calling it a brazen refusal of a joint declaration by Western powers in the Group of Seven, in which North Korea was mentioned as a “top priority” on the international agenda on nonproliferation and disarmament.

Leaders from the U.S., Japan, France, Germany, Britain, Italy and Canada pressed the world last Saturday from a G-7 summit to “redouble its efforts” to ensure the implementation of United Nations Security Council resolutions against North Korea.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was quoted by the Japan Times as saying Tokyo would “never tolerate” Pyongyang’s repeated provocations. In order to deter the regime, Tokyo would take “concrete actions” with Washington, Abe added.

Kyodo News in Japan reported Monday that China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi was set to arrive in the country later that day for a three-day visit.

North Korea conducted nine missile tests this year, most recently on May 21, when a medium-range Pukguksong-2 flew for 550 kilometers after peaking at an altitude of 500 kilometers before landing in the East Sea. On Sunday, the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said a new type of antiaircraft guided weapon system had been successfully tested, adding that leader Kim Jong-un was so satisfied he ordered the mass production of the guided missile.

The KCNA did not disclose the date or location of the test in the dispatch, but ran photos that it claimed to be scenes from the operation.

Asked whether the latest missile test would affect Seoul’s approval of humanitarian aid to the North, Lee Duk-haeng, South Korea’s Unification Ministry spokesman, replied in a regular briefing Monday that it “wasn’t right” to cut off inter-Korea relations even in the face of the missile tests.

Last Friday, the ministry allowed the Korean Sharing Movement, a nongovernmental organization in Seoul, to contact its North Korean counterparts for a malaria prevention program, the first time in almost 16 months that South Korea allowed a local private organization person-to-person contacts with North Koreans.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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