Moon lashes out after North tests possible ICBM
North Korea fired what South Korea and Japan's militaries said was an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and other unidentified projectiles into the eastern waters off the Korean Peninsula on Thursday afternoon, eliciting an unusually sharp rebuke from President Moon Jae-in.
Presiding over an emergency meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) at the Blue House at 3:50 p.m., Moon condemned the test – possibly the first full launch of an ICBM by Pyongyang since 2017 – as a “blatant violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions and a serious threat to the Korean Peninsula and the international community," according to a press release by the presidential office.
“By conducting this latest test, the North has essentially scrapped the moratorium on ICBM testing promised by leader Kim Jong-un to the international community,” the press release quoted Moon as saying.
Earlier in the day, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said it detected the launch of an “unidentified projectile” from North Korea, described as a long-range missile and possibly an ICBM, fired at a high angle into space.
The Japanese Coast Guard also said the projectile was possibly a ballistic missile and that it was believed to have landed 170 kilometers (105 miles) west of Cape Tappi in Aomori Prefecture, inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), about 50 minutes after its launch was first reported.
North Korea most recently test-fired a missile on March 16 that appeared to explode shortly after its launch from Sunan Airport near Pyongyang. That test followed two other launches, conducted Feb. 26 and March 5, which the regime claimed were tests to launch a reconnaissance satellite into space.
U.S. and South Korean officials warned, however, that those two tests were of the North’s latest ICBM system, the Hwasong-17.
“The purpose of these tests, which did not demonstrate [full] ICBM range, was likely to evaluate this new system before conducting a test at full range in the future, potentially disguised as a space launch,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said in a March 10 statement.
The Hwasong-17 was first unveiled at an Oct. 10, 2020 military parade marking the 75th anniversary of the founding of the North’s ruling Korean Workers’ Party. It was also displayed at a defense exhibition in Pyongyang last Oct. 12.
With an estimated length of 23 meters (74.5 feet) and a 2.3-meter diameter, the Hwasong-17 is the largest ICBM in the world.
Thursday’s launch marks the 13th missile test by North Korea in the past three months, which have raised alarm and condemnation from the United States, South Korea and Japan.
The tests come at a delicate time in Seoul, which is in the middle of an already unsmooth presidential transition from the liberal Moon, who advocated détente and the signing of a formal peace with nuclear-armed Pyongyang, to the conservative Yoon Suk-yeol, who has emphasized a posture of “peace through strength” in dealing with the North.
BY MICHAEL LEE [email@example.com]