The game changers

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The game changers

North Korea fired a pair of short-range ballistic missiles from Wonsan on its east coast just six days after its last provocative launches. That adds up to seven missiles on four occasions since May. The missile launches are clear violations of the Sept. 19, 2018 military agreement between President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang and United Nations Security Council resolutions banning the North from firing ballistic missiles.

The provocations are ratcheting up tensions on the Korean Peninsula. The two missiles North Korea fired Wednesday flew about 250 kilometers (155 miles) into the East Sea at a low altitude of 30 kilometers. Due to their eccentric flight paths, our defensive missiles may not be able to intercept them.

In a sharp departure from the past, the Ministry of National Defense showed an immediate reaction, as seen in the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s first-ever clarification that the missiles were ballistic missiles. On Wednesday, Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo warned that if North Korea threatens or provokes South Korea, it will be regarded as a enemy. Ruling Democratic Party floor leader Lee In-young also denounced the missile launches. The defense ministry and ruling party have finally come to realize the substantial threat from North Korea.

The Blue House also held a National Security Council meeting immediately. It did not convene such a meeting when North Korea fired ballistic missiles last time or even when Russian aircraft violated our Air Defense Identification Zone. Yet the National Security Council meeting was not presided over by President Moon. The results of the meeting were also ambiguous. In a press release, the presidential office simply expressed concerns about the missile launches.

In a grim situation, our commander-in-chief was invisible. A new submarine North Korea publicized earlier this month can be equipped with at least three submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), which can strike as far as Guam and Okinawa. U.S. President Donald Trump is downplaying Pyongyang’s provocation, branding them “small weapons” that do not pose a direct threat to the U.S. mainland.

While Seoul and Washington were trying to make friends with Pyongyang in denuclearization negotiations, North Korea has come up with three sets of game changers: ICBMs, SLBMs and the new ballistic missiles targeting South Korea, Japan, and the U.S. The government must deal with the threats before it is too late.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 1, Page 30
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