North Korea’s SLBM launch

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North Korea’s SLBM launch

 On Tuesday, North Korea fired a ballistic missile again. Given such circumstances as the location of the launch site, it has likely fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). That poses a serious security threat to South Korea.

The missile launch is the eighth of its kind this year and the fifth since September. Those projectiles included supersonic missiles, long-range cruise missiles, and KN-23 short-range ballistic missiles, which are hard to defend against due to their capability to evade interceptors. On top of that, North Korea has taken a step closer to the development of SLBMs, a game changer. If the North really fired Tuesday’s SLBM from a submarine — instead of from an underwater launching tube — the situation gets more serious. South Korea’s SLBMs without nuclear warheads are totally different from North Korea’s SLBMs loaded with such warheads.

The Blue House, the defense ministry, and the military must first find out what was meant by the missile launch. The government’s complacency, as clearly seen in its assessment that it was aimed at gaining the upper hand in dialogue or attracting attention from the United States, cannot stop the North’s provocations. Last month, President Moon Jae-in brushed them off, saying North Korea was only engaged in low-key provocations. We hope he is not burying his head in the sand.

North Korea’s intention is clear. In the eighth Congress of the Workers’ Party in January, it mentioned a detailed list of new tactical weapons to develop and a plan to advance its nuclear capabilities. North Korea is asking if South Korea and the U.S. still would not recognize its nuclear power status.

That strategy of North Korea sharply contrasts with the Moon administration’s belief in Pyongyang’s determination to denuclearize. Even if Pyongyang returns to the negotiating table, it will come to nuclear arms reduction talks after getting international recognition as a nuclear power. In that case, North Korea will certainly demand the pullout of U.S. forces from South Korea and a dismantling of the U.S. nuclear umbrella over South Korea.

And yet the Moon administration is obsessed with declaring an end to the Korean War. North Korea has responded by calling for a permanent suspension of both South Korea-U.S. joint drills and deployment of U.S. strategic assets here. The government must wake up from its pipe dream.

The Blue House, government and military must clearly analyze Pyongyang’s intention and review its North Korea policy. They must face North Korea’s saber-rattling through the decades-old alliance and international cooperation.
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