Debris fell 'like rain' over Pyongyang, says lawmakerThe failed North Korean missile test on March 16 led to a debris shower over the capital city of Pyongyang, according to a conservative lawmaker on Tuesday.
Lawmaker Ha Tae-keung of the conservative People Power Party, who sits on the National Assembly’s defense committee, said that the mid-air explosion of the missile, which was launched from Sunan Airfield near Pyongyang on March 16, sent wreckage “falling like rain” over the capital.
While it is not clear if there were any deaths resulted from the crashing debris, damage did occur, according to Ha.
The revelation by the lawmaker follows information released by U.S. and South Korean military authorities that the missile tested on March 16 was a new Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), but it only reached an altitude of approximately 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) before exploding.
Ha added that the missile’s low altitude at the time allowed the explosion to be seen from the ground.
The lawmaker added that the North likely tested a modified version of an older ICBM, the Hwasong-15, on March 24 and claimed it as a successful test of the newer and larger Hwasong-17 in order to save face over the failed test eight days earlier.
“Residents of Pyongyang were startled by the incident,” Ha said. “(The North Korean government) hastily fired a Hwasong-15 and claimed it was a Hwasong-17 in their propaganda to prevent adverse public opinion from morphing into regime instability.”
Ha’s assessment of the situation in the North Korean capital in the immediate aftermath of the March 16 test was partially contradicted by the defense committee’s chairman, liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Min Hong-chul, who characterized it as an exaggeration.
“If a missile explodes mid-air, of course debris will fall to the ground,” Min said. “The idea that it ‘fell like rain’ is merely (Ha’s) own personal opinion.”
Min however agreed with Ha’s opinion that the North’s most recent ICBM test was that of a Hwasong-15, not the newer Hwasong-17.
“The missile fired by North Korea on March 24 was a slightly more advanced Hwasong-15, launched from a transporter erector launcher (TEL),” Min said. “While the North claimed it was a Hwasong-17, the joint opinion of the United States and South Korea is that it was a Hwasong-15. North Korea is being deceptive.”
Meanwhile, the Defense Ministry said Wednesday that both the United States and South Korea are at a “high-stage of readiness” for “the possibility of additional provocations, such as a seventh nuclear weapons test or another launch of the Hwasong-17 ICBM by North Korea.”
The ministry added it was also reviewing plans for joint allied exercises, which Pyongyang has denounced in the past as preparations for an invasion but Seoul and Washington said are necessary to maintain military readiness.
BY MICHAEL LEE [firstname.lastname@example.org]