Shameful ignoranceOur military and intelligence authorities did not know anything about the missile launch last weekend by North Korea. They began to find out what happened only after the North’s state mouthpiece reported it. According to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the National Defense Science Academy test-fired an advanced long-distance cruise missile on Saturday and Sunday. The new cruise missiles allegedly flew for 7,580 seconds above its land and sea and hit a target 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) away. Yet our intelligence authorities do not even know where the missiles took off from.
As cruise missiles can fly at a very low altitude, it is difficult to detect them by radar. Our military authorities’ inability to detect their launch and trajectory shows serious loopholes in our intelligence network. The cruise missiles North Korea test-fired last weekend can strike targets in the entire area of South Korea and as far as U.S. bases in Japan. If tactical nukes are loaded onto the missile, it poses a serious danger. If North Korea fires the missiles at South Korea to evade air defense radar, it is difficult to defend not only our own bases but also U.S. bases.
North Korea took advantage of UN Security Council resolutions which do not consider its cruise missile test as a violation of the resolution. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was not at the test site apparently to not provoke the United States. In other words, Pyongyang could boast its cruise missile launch while not shutting the door to dialogue with Washington. The U.S. Defense Department immediately criticized the test for posing a serious threat to neighboring countries and international community. Yet the Moon Jae-in administration keeps mum.
The launch is heightening tension on the Korean Peninsula together with the reactivation of the Yongbyon nuclear facility and a military parade in the middle of night on Thursday. Under such volatile circumstances, Noh Kyu-duk, Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs, meets with his Japanese and American counterparts in Tokyo through Tuesday. The conference was originally aimed at discussing humanitarian aid to North Korea, but must include countermeasures to deal with the launch. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visits South Korea Tuesday, but he must demand North Korea stop provocations first before demanding an easing of sanctions.
Our intelligence authorities must not repeat the same mistake of failing to detect North Korean missile launches. They must keep close watch over the North based on our solid alliance with the U.S. and find ways to brace for such challenges.