North Korea: Missile breakthrough scares the South
North Korea’s nuclear missile program is accelerating much faster than expected, said Yi Yong-in in The Hankyoreh (South Korea). The dictatorship last week launched a new strategic ballistic missile, the Hwasong-12, which landed some 490 miles away in the sea west of Japan. The missile flew far higher than previous projectiles tested by the regime, at one point reaching an altitude of nearly 1,300 miles, suggesting the North is edging closer to developing an intercontinental ballistic missile that could hit the U.S. mainland. If the Hwasong-12 had been fired at a normal rather than a high trajectory, it could have traveled nearly 2,800 miles. America’s military bases on Guam, 2,110 miles away, would be “within the strike zone.” North Korean tyrant Kim Jong Un still has to overcome a big scientific hurdle in his push for an ICBM, said The Mainichi (Japan) in an editorial. Experts think the regime might have “a nuclear warhead small enough to be mounted on a missile,” but don’t believe that warhead could survive the fiery re-entry from space into Earth’s atmosphere. Still, it’s likely only a matter of time before the North develops the right technology.
The launch was clearly a challenge to the new South Korean leadership, said the Dong-a Ilbo (South Korea). It came just four days after the left-leaning Moon Jae-in was sworn in as president, following a campaign in which he pledged to abandon his predecessor’s hard line toward North Korea and to review the deployment of a U.S. missile defense system, THAAD, on South Korean soil. Kim has also thumbed his nose at U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, who are both trying to bring Pyongyang to heel. The test seemed timed to cause maximum embarrassment to these leaders, coming as the U.S. aircraft carrier Carl Vinson was engaged in a joint U.S.–South Korean military drill and on the very day that China kicked off a summit promoting a massive new international infrastructure initiative. Moon called the launch a “grave act of provocation,” and said his planned opening of talks with Kim would only be possible “if the North changes its attitude.” But he’d do better to scrap the idea of talks altogether and “make the deployment of THAAD a done deal.”
Moon also needs to completely rethink our defense strategy, said the Chosun Ilbo (South Korea). The Americans have promised to protect South Korea, but “if the North gets the technology to strike New York, the pledge will only be a piece of paper.” Imagine Kim threatening to flatten Los Angeles unless the U.S. pulled all troops out of South Korea—those soldiers would surely be on the next ship out. That’s only one scenario. Just as bad would be a pre-emptive U.S. strike on the North; tens of thousands of South Koreans would die in Kim’s inevitable counterattack. Moon should consider stationing U.S. nuclear weapons on South Korean soil—or developing our own. ■