Pyongyang claims to successfully test an ICBM
Moon’s Blue House, which favors more engagement of the North, has never specified its definition of a red line and the Donald Trump administration has hesitated to draw a figurative point of no return for the North as well. But in an interview with “The Fox News Specialists” in May, Trump said, “I don’t like drawing red lines but I act if I have to act,” adding that nobody was safe in the face of North Korea’s nuclear and missile weapons.
U.S. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said last week he was ordered by Trump to prepare various options against North Korea, including a military strike, after Trump stressed the U.S. would not acknowledge Pyongyang as a nuclear state.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missile was fired from Banghyon Air Base in North Pyongan Province, in the western area of North Korea, and flew east before landing in waters between the North and Japan, but did not confirm what type of missile it was.
The U.S. Pacific Command said in a statement before North Korea’s announcement that the projectile appeared to have been an intermediate-range ballistic missile, a class that has the capacity to fly between 3,000 and 5,500 kilometers (1,864 to 3,418 miles), shorter than an ICBM’s capacity of more than 5,500 kilometers.
According to North Korea’s official mouthpiece, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the Hwasong-14 flew 933 kilometers (580 miles) for 39 minutes after peaking at an altitude of 2,802 kilometers before landing in the East Sea.
North Korea is known to have 13 different types of missiles, three of which are ICBMs: the Hwasong-14, Hwasong-13 and Taepodong-2. The distance between North Korea and Alaska is about 5,700 kilometers. From North Korea to the eastern part of the United States is about 10,000 kilometers.
KCNA said the test was carried out on the direct order of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, adding that the missile was intentionally fired at a high angle, which shortens its travel distance, in order not to land in neighboring countries.
Pyongyang claimed it can finally put an end to Washington’s “nuclear war threat.”
North Korea has been warning of an ICBM test since January, when Kim declared in a New Year’s address that his country was in its “final stages” of developing such a missile. The regime’s state-run media repeated that claim numerous times, saying the test would be held “anytime, anywhere” Kim wishes.
Pyongyang, however, didn’t say why Tuesday was specifically chosen, or when Kim decided on the date. It was two days after Moon returned from a summit meeting with Trump in Washington, in which both leaders agreed to bolster their bilateral alliance for a “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
It was a day before Moon was scheduled to leave for Germany for a bilateral summit with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and to attend a Group of 20 Summit in Hamburg on Friday and Saturday. A summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping is being planned for Thursday in Berlin, and a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin will take place on Friday in Hamburg. Moon is also expected to attend a three-way meeting with Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Before North Korea made its ICBM announcement, Trump tweeted: “North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life? Hard to believe that South Korea and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!”
Moon convened a National Security Council meeting at the Blue House and condemned the missile test, expressing his “deep disappointment and regret” that Pyongyang carried it out shortly after he and his American counterpart called on the regime to refrain from any further military provocations.
Moon said he would raise the issue in the upcoming G-20 Summit, where he initially planned to announce a new road map for uniting the two Koreas. Blue House aides have yet to mention whether Moon would rewrite his speech.
“The [South Korean] government strongly condemns [North Korea’s] provocation,” Moon said in the National Security Council meeting. “It’s a blatant violation of UN Security Council resolutions and a head-on denial of multiple warnings from our country, the United States and China. North Korea’s obsession with its nuclear and missile development program goes to show, once again, how reckless the regime is.” Saying the missile launch was a “matter of survival” for the South Korean people, Moon said he would cooperate with the rest of the world to counter threats from the North and strengthen the South Korea-U.S. alliance.
In a meeting with former British Prime Minister David Cameron Tuesday at the Blue House around the time North Korea made the ICBM announcement, Moon said he “hopes North Korea doesn’t cross the Rubicon,” and that he doesn’t know “how Washington and Seoul will react to Pyongyang if it crosses the red line,” according to Moon’s spokesman, Park Soo-hyun.
In a regular briefing Tuesday, Geng Shuang, China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman, said Beijing called on Pyongyang to refrain from violating UN Security Council sanctions and urged other countries to “remain calm.”
Japanese Prime Minister Abe lambasted the launch, saying it has “clearly shown that [the North Korean] threat has further increased,” according to the Japan Times. Abe reportedly said he would ask Chinese President Xi and Russian President Putin to respond to the provocations in a “more constructive way.”
North Korea carried out 10 previous missile tests this year, the most recent on June 8, when it fired several short-range antiship cruise missiles off its eastern coast.
The missile test is a blow to Moon’s softer approach to Pyongyang. Moon had said he is willing to talk with the North on the condition that it refrains from any additional nuclear or missile tests. Pyongyang has rebuffed the offer.
BY LEE SUNG-EUN [email@example.com]