US Says North Korea’s Missile Launch Highlights Destabilizing Impact of Kim Regime’s Weapon of Mass Destruction

The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) said on Monday that it was consulting closely with regional allies following North Korea’s latest “destabilizing” ballistic missile launches, which North Korean state media boasted was suitable for “tactical nuclear attack.”

The missile launches came just two days after the North Korean regime claimed it conducted an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test in retaliation against U.S.-South Korea joint drills.

“We are aware of the DPRK’s additional ballistic missile launches, and we are consulting closely with our allies and partners,” the INDOPACOM said in a statement after the launches.

It condemned North Korea’s “unlawful WMD and ballistic missile programs,” while noting that, on this occasion, the missiles did not pose an immediate threat to the United States and its allies.

North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles toward the East Sea on Monday, which landed outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone. Japan’s Defense Ministry said both missiles were launched within minutes of each other.

Japan said the first missile traveled 400 kilometers (248 miles) at a maximum altitude of 100 kilometers (62 miles), while the second was estimated to have flown around 350 kilometers (217 miles) at a maximum altitude of 50 kilometers (31 miles).

North Korea’s state media outlet Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported the launches involved two 600-millimeter “tactical nuclear” rockets with target ranges of 395 kilometers (245 miles) and 337 kilometers (209 miles), respectively.

KCNA said that a tactical nuclear attack is potent enough to “paralyze” enemy airfield operations and that the drills demonstrated North Korea’s “full readiness” to deter the U.S.-South Korea joint aerial drills.

South Korea and Japan strongly condemned the North’s missile launches and urged North Korea to stop its provocative acts, Yonhap News Agency reported.

South Korea’s military vowed to implement “a firm response posture” based on its security cooperation with the United States and Japan to respond “overwhelmingly to any North Korean provocations.”

The latest tests followed U.S.-South Korea joint air drills on Sunday, which were held in response to North Korea’s “sudden launching drill” of a Hwasong-15 ICBM.

The United States also launched a joint air drill with Japan on the same day, involving the U.S. B-1 bomber and F-16 fighter aircraft.

The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said the joint air drills aim to showcase the allies’ “rapid reaction capabilities, high levels of force readiness, close coordination, bilateral interoperability, and credible deterrent capacity.”

‘Surprise ICBM Launch’

North Korea launched the Hwasong-15 from the Pyongyang International Airport on Saturday in what it called “a surprise launching drill” under the written orders of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

According to KCNA, the missile traveled 989 kilometers (614 miles) at a maximum altitude of 5,768.5 kilometers (3,584 miles) for 4,015 seconds before “accurately hitting” its target in the waters of the East Sea of Korea.

The missile landed outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone. Japanese defense minister Yasukazu Hamada said the missile’s range was 8,700 miles and so it would have had the capacity to strike the United States.

The United States condemned North Korea’s actions and said that it would take “all necessary measures” to ensure the security of the American homeland as well as its South Korean and Japanese allies.

“While U.S. INDOPACOM has assessed it did not pose an immediate threat to U.S. personnel, territory, or to our allies, this launch needlessly raise tensions and risks destabilizing the security situation in the region,” the White House said.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Tokyo was closely communicating with Washington and Seoul over the launch, which he described as “an act of violence that escalates provocation toward the international order.”

North Korea Vowed Unprecedented Response

North Korea’s foreign ministry earlier threatened “unprecedented” counteractions against its rivals after South Korea announced a series of military exercises, with the United States aiming to bolster their joint capabilities to respond to North Korea’s nuclear threats.

North Korea has long condemned the joint drills as “rehearsals for an invasion” and vowed to retaliate against any military action according to its principle of “nuke for nuke and an all-out confrontation for an all-out confrontation.”

Epoch Times Photo
File photo provided by North Korean authorities shows Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missiles during a military parade in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Feb. 8, 2023. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File)

Pyongyang’s missile launch on Saturday marks the first since testing a short-range weapon on Jan. 1. It comes on the heels of a large military parade in the North Korean capital, during which over a dozen intercontinental ballistic missiles were put on display.

North Korea set a new record last year in weapons demonstrations, including the launch of over 70 ballistic missiles, some of which had the capacity to reach the U.S. mainland.

The country also carried out a series of launches that it claimed to be simulated nuclear attacks on South Korean and American targets. It said the launches were in response to the allies’ renewed large-scale joint military exercises, which had been reduced in scale for a number of years.

The United States has been urging for a return for a dialogue, a call North Korea has ignored due to what it says are the U.S. and its allies’ hostile policies.

Tom Ozimek, Andrew Thornebrooke, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source link