North’s rockets are eighth pair of tests this year
According to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), the rockets were fired Friday morning at 8:01 a.m. and 8:16 a.m. from an area near Tongchon, Kangwon Province. Each of the projectiles flew a distance of approximately 230 kilometers (143 miles) with a peak altitude of 30 kilometers at Mach 6.1, the JCS said.
No determination has yet been made to what kind of weapon was tested, but the speed and distance covered suggested the same type of short-range tactical ballistic missiles believed to have been tested Aug. 10.
This marked the sixth time Pyongyang conducted such tests in just under a month and the eighth time this year. The tests are ostensibly protests of joint exercises between the United States and South Korea.
In this round, the launches were accompanied by a statement released by the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country (CPRC), one of the North’s agencies in charge of inter-Korean relations, that pilloried South Korea’s president without mentioning him by name.
Calling his Thursday speech on the anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japanese rule on “foolish” and a “citation of spiritual slogans,” the statement, attributed to a CPRC spokesperson, said Moon’s labeling of the North’s weapons tests as “worrisome acts” were “reckless remarks.”
“Even at this moment, there go on in South Korea joint military exercises against the DPRK,” the English-language statement continued, using the acronym for North Korea’s official name: the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea. “Does [Moon] have any face to talk about dialogue atmosphere, peaceful economy and peace-keeping mechanism?”
The release scoffed at the central idea in Moon’s address - the building of a “peace economy” through inter-Korean cooperation - saying the notion would “make the boiled head of a cow provoke a side-splitting laughter.”
Accusing Seoul and Washington of practicing to annihilate the North with their joint drills, the statement continued, “[Moon’s] open talk about ‘dialogue’ between the North and the South under such a situation raises a question as to whether he has proper thinking faculty.”
“He is, indeed, an impudent guy rare to be found,” it added.
A litany of smears of “the South Korean chief executive” followed, calling him a “funny man,” saying he was “overcome with fright” and that his “wayward acts” have naturally led to the deterioration of inter-Korean relations.
Such personal attacks, reminiscent of the North’s visceral insults of South Korea’s conservative leaders in the past, are the harshest language the North has leveled against Moon since it began its engagement drive with the South during last year’s Winter Olympics.
Pyongyang’s participation in the games warmed ties between the two Koreas, giving way to three summits between Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. But relations frosted over again after the South kept ranks with the United States’ so-called maximum pressure campaign following the collapse of the second U.S.-North Korea summit in February.
The belligerent rant ended with a startling declaration that there was no chance Pyongyang would ever sit down again with Seoul - even after the North resumes dialogue with the United States after the joint exercises come to a close.
Telling Moon to “drop that senseless lingering attachment” to resuming talks with the North, the CPRC release said South Korea “can clearly see what we feel now, i.e. we have nothing to talk any more with the South Korean authorities nor have any idea to sit with them again.”
To Friday’s outbursts from Pyongyang, the South Korean government reacted with its usual measured stance. After reviewing the North’s weapons test, the Blue House’s National Security Council called for the cessation of actions “raising military tensions” on the Korean Peninsula, while the deputy spokesman for South Korea’s Ministry of Unification on Friday said the CPRC’s criticism of Moon was “not at all helpful to the improvement of inter-Korean relations.” The ministry later issued a stronger response when one official said the CPRC statement was “a rude act that crossed the line.”
Another Blue House official later Friday repeated the Unification Ministry’s initial position to reporters, alluding back to Moon’s address on Thursday in which he said the North should raise any dissatisfactions at a negotiating table rather than spoil the mood for talks. The official added that Seoul remains “hopeful” that talks between the United States and North Korea proceed smoothly, and that those discussions, if fruitful, could “naturally link up” to progress in the relationship between two Koreas.
South Korean analysts say while the CRPC statement took criticism of the South to a new level, it may be more of an expression of Pyongyang’s disappointment with Seoul’s compliance with U.S. policy than a true severing of inter-Korean ties.
BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [email@example.com]