Allies respond to North Korean ICBM test
South Korea and the United States hit back with their own show of force Wednesday, a day after North Korea conducted its first successful intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test.
At the suggestion of the South’s leader, Moon Jae-in, and with the agreement of U.S. President Donald Trump, the allies fired “a barrage of missiles” along the east coast of the Korean Peninsula – including the Hyunmoo-2A South Korean indigenous ballistic projectile – according to a statement from Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff cited by local news agency Yonhap.
“Self-restraint, which is a choice, is all that separates armistice and war,” U.S. Forces Korea Commander (USFK) Gen. Vincent K. Brooks added in a joint warning to North Korea, with whom the allies maintain an uneasy cease-fire because a peace treaty was never agreed to after the 1950-53 Korean War.
“We are able to change our choice when so ordered by our alliance's national leaders. It would be a grave mistake for anyone to believe anything to the contrary,” Brooks insisted.
Earlier in the day, Pyongyang’s state-run KCNA news agency reported the North’s latest test confirmed the ability to fire an ICBM “capable of carrying a large-sized heavy nuclear warhead”.
While Seoul’s Defense Minister Han Min-koo recognized North Korea’s ICBM test when speaking at a parliamentary briefing Wednesday, he remained skeptical whether Pyongyang mastered the atmospheric re-entry technology required to protect a warhead from the intense heat associated with such a launch.
Han said there was no evidence to prove the North’s re-entry claim, although KCNA said the missile’s warhead was protected during the test by “heat-resisting features” and “newly developed domestic carbon compound material”.
Meanwhile, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry announced the UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting Wednesday in New York to discuss Pyongyang’s breach of previous resolutions.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also condemned the launch as “yet another brazen violation of Security Council resolutions and constitutes a dangerous escalation of the situation".
"The DPRK leadership must cease further provocative actions and comply fully with its international obligations," he said in a statement published on the UN's website.