Seoul: Nuclear-armed North Korea’s launch of four missiles was a training exercise for a strike on US bases in Japan and supervised by leader Kim Jong-Un, Pyongyang’s state media said today.
Three of the four missiles came down provocatively close to US ally Japan, in waters that are part of its exclusive economic zone, representing a challenge to US President Donald Trump.
Washington and Tokyo have sought an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the launch, likely to be scheduled for tomorrow.
Under UN resolutions, Pyongyang is barred from any use of ballistic missile technology, and the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said on Twitter that the world “won’t allow” North Korea to continue on its “destructive path”.
But six sets of UN sanctions since its first nuclear test in 2006 have failed to halt its drive for what it insists are defensive weapons.
Kim Jong-Un gave the order for the drill to start, the North’s official Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.
“Feasting his eyes on the trails of ballistic rockets”, he praised the Hwasong artillery unit that carried it out, it said.
“The four ballistic rockets launched simultaneously are so accurate that they look like acrobatic flying corps in formation, he said,” the agency added, referring to Kim.
The military units involved are “tasked to strike the bases of the US imperialist aggressor forces in Japan in contingency”, KCNA said.
But a US defence official told AFP that North Korea had launched five extended-range Scud missiles yesterday, with one crashing somewhere over the Korean peninsula.
Seoul and Washington last week began annual joint military exercises that always infuriate Pyongyang.
Kim Jong-Un ordered his military “to keep highly alert as required by the grim situation in which an actual war may break out anytime”, KCNA reported, and to be ready to “open fire to annihilate the enemies” when ordered.
Pyongyang regularly issues threats against its enemies, and carried out two atomic tests and a series of missile launches last year, but yesterday was only the second time its devices have come down in Japan’s EEZ.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told parliament: “This clearly shows North Korea has entered a new stage of threat,” adding: “We can never tolerate this.”
The launches came ahead of a trip by new US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to the region.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also condemned them, urging Pyongyang to refrain from further “provocations”.
Trump has described North Korea as a “big, big problem” and vowed to deal with the issue “very strongly”.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said yesterday that North Korea poses a “very serious threat”, adding the administration was taking steps to “enhance our ability to defend against North Korea’s ballistic missiles”.
South Korea said yesterday that four missiles were fired from Tongchang County in North Pyongan province into the East Sea — its name for the Sea of Japan — travelling about 1,000 kilometres and reaching an altitude of 260 kilometres.
US deploys anti-ballistic missile defense system to S Korea
Washington: The US military has begun deploying an anti-ballistic missile defense system to South Korea, following a string of missile tests by North Korea, the US Pacific Command said.
The announcement came after nuclear-armed North Korea yesterday launched four missiles which it said was part of training for a strike on US bases in Japan. Three of the missiles came down provocatively close to Japan.
Deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system “contributes to a layered missile defense system and enhances the US-ROK Alliance’s defense against North Korean missile threats,” the Pacific Command yesterday said in a statement.
“North Korea’s accelerating program of nuclear weapons tests and ballistic missile launches constitute a threat to international peace and security, and are in violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions.”
South Korea and the United States agreed last year to install the THAAD system, which China has repeatedly denounced as a threat to its security.
The statement from the Pacific Command, which oversees US military operations in the Asia-Pacific, pointed out that the system is “a strictly defensive capability and it poses no threat to other countries in the region.”
The system is meant to intercept and destroy short and medium-range ballistic missiles during their final phase of flight.
— AFP (PTI)