Monday, 20 August, 2018

Korea launches first missiles since nuke threats row with US

Ellis Copeland | 28 August, 2017, 11:04

Leader Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump stand on the cusp of world war over the North's nuclear missile programme.

North Korea's last missile test on July 28 was for an intercontinental ballistic missile created to fly 10,000 km.

The launches coincide with joint exercises between the USA and South Korean militaries, exercises that North Korea always strongly protests because it considers them preparation for an invasion. North Korea purports these military exercises as a rehearsal for an invasion, reports said.

Also on Tuesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson praised Pyongyang for demonstrating "some level of restraint", noting that there had been "no missile launches or provocative acts on the part of North Korea", since the United Nations Security Council voted August 5 to impose a $1 billion sanctions package against the country.

"The firing of any ballistic missile is a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions and we do view it as a provocative act, a provocative act against the United States and our allies", said Tillerson on Fox News.

"Although the launches were no threat to Guam, it reminds us that we can not be complacent", said George Charfauros, the homeland security adviser on the USA territory.

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Though North Korea says it now has the ability to send missiles to the U.S. mainland, United States defense officials said these short-range missiles did not pose a threat to North America or Guam.

The South Korean and USA militaries are in the midst of the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian drills involving computer simulations of a war to test readiness and run until Aug 31. If the South Korean assessments are correct, the North might have conducted tests to expand the range of its 300-millimeter multiple rocket launchers, which are believed to have a radius of up to 200 kilometers (124 miles), Kim said.

The ICBM had the potential to reach the lower 48 states of the United States, prompting President Trump to threaten to rain down "fire and fury" on the North if the country did not stand down.

However, some experts say North Korea is now mainly focused on the bigger picture of testing its bargaining power against the United States with its new long-range missiles and likely has no interest in letting things get too tense during the drills.

"I don't know that we're wrong", said Tillerson.

The region where the missiles were launched, Kittaeryong, is a known military test site frequently used by the North for short-range missile drills, said Kim Dong-yub, a military expert at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies in Seoul.

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