North Korea says missile over Japan was ‘first step’

Pyongyang gears up for more provocations despite global anger

 

SEOUL(AA)-North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has called for more ballistic missile tests targeting “the Pacific,” according to Pyongyang’s state-run media Wednesday.

He personally oversaw the launch of a projectile over Japan early Tuesday morning Korean time, prompting Tokyo to condemn the test as an “unprecedented threat.”

But Kim was quoted by KCNA news agency as clarifying that the test was just “the first step of the military operation of the Korean People’s Army in the Pacific and a meaningful prelude to containing Guam.

The launch demonstrated Pyongyang’s growing confidence regardless of UN Security Council sanctions as its Hwasong-12 missile travelled 2,700 kilometers (1,678 miles) — sending a message that the reclusive state might also send projectiles close to Guam as it threatened earlier this month. The Pacific island is home to some of Washington’s most powerful military hardware.

The security council responded Tuesday by adopting a statement of condemnation, describing North Korea’s latest provocation as an “outrageous” threat — having already strengthened sanctions after Pyongyang’s pair of intercontinental ballistic missile tests in July.

U.S. President Donald Trump also said earlier in the day that “all options are on the table” as Seoul is pushing to boost South Korea’s defenses following phone talks between National Security Office chief Chung Eui-yong and his U.S. counterpart H.R. McMaster.

A statement from Seoul’s presidential office confirmed that shortly after the North’s latest test was detected, they discussed deploying American strategic assets to the peninsula so the South does not have to rely on powerfulhardware being scrambled from Guam, such as B-1B bombers.

Other assets that could bolster South Korea include B-52 bombers, guided missile destroyers, nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers.

The conversation is set to continue when U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis hosts his South Korean counterpart Song Young-moo at the Pentagon Wednesday.

Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Logan declined to comment directly on the possible deployment of strategic assets to the South but told Anadolu Agency the U.S. remains “prepared to defend ourselves and our allies and to use the full range of capabilities at our disposal against the growing threat from North Korea.”

There are already around 30,000 American military personnel stationed in South Korea, but Seoul has made it clear that President Moon Jae-in also wants to be able to develop more indigenous capabilities to deter the North, including raising the bar on existing ballistic missile restrictions.

The U.S. still has wartime operational control of South Korea decades after the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice agreement rather than a peace treaty.