South Korean Acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn said on Monday that the deployment of the U.S.-made Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery should happen as soon as possible, arguing the consequences of a nuclear-armed North Korea would be “horrible and beyond imagination.”
Hwang presided over a National Security Council (NSC) meeting at South Korea’s Blue House at 0900 KST (1900 EST) a few hours after North Korea test-fired four ballistic missiles at 0736 KST, the Blue House said in a written statement.
The North’s ballistic missile launches came 22 days after the North launched a new type of solid-fuel intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) named “Pukguksong-2” on February 12, at Panghyon in North Pyongan Province.
“We strongly condemn North Korea’s launching of ballistic missiles once again today, despite repeated warnings from the Republic of Korea and the international society,” Hwang said, speaking to the Standing Committee of the NSC.
“This is an act of outright defiance to the international society and serious provocation.”
Hwang described the North’s nuclear and missile provocations as “real and imminent threats to the lives and safety” of South Korean citizens.
“In view of the brutality and recklessness of the North Korean regime, as seen in the assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the consequences of a nuclear-armed North Korea will be appalling beyond imagination,” Hwang reportedly told his top aides.
Hwang called on the South Korean military to maintain its readiness to “sternly punish” North Korea for its provocation.
“In particular, by thoroughly carrying out the ongoing ROK-U.S. joint military exercise, we should deter further provocation from North Korea and give assurance to the people of the national security,” Hwang said, referring to Foal Eagle, the ROK-U.S. annual combined Field Training Exercise (FTX) which began on March 1.
The South and the U.S. are planning to hold the joint military exercise Key Resolve, which South Korea’s military claims is one of the largest ever, this month.
Approximately 17,000 U.S. forces participated with ROK forces in Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercise training in March 2016.
South Korea’s Acting President also said the country would “firmly deal with any kind of threats without wavering.”
“Furthermore, we should secure defense system against nuclear and missile threats from North Korea through early deployment of the THAAD by the USFK,” Hwang said. “At the same time, actively seeking ways to effectively strengthen the extended deterrence of the U.S. for the purpose of enhancing deterrence capabilities against the North.”
Meanwhile, South Korean National Security Adviser Kim Kwan-jin and his counterpart General Herbert Raymond McMaster spoke over the phone for 15 minutes at 1045 KST, the ROK presidential office said in a written statement.
“The two condemned the repeated launches of ballistic missiles by North Korea and agreed to enhance bilateral cooperation for strong and effective sanctions and pressure against the North,” the Blue House said.
“[Both] also agreed to hold more in-depth discussions regarding ways to respond to North Korean nuclear and missile threats when Director Kim visits the U.S.”
Japan’s Kyodo News Agency also reported on Saturday that U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would visit China, Japan, and South Korea within the month.
Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said on Monday that North Korea fired four projectiles from near the Tongchang-ri region in North Pyongan Province into the waters off its east coast, but added that there are slight differences between the timing of the launches.
JCS said the four projectiles traveled around 1,000km on average, reaching a maximum altitude of around 260km.
North Korea used the same location, the site of the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, to launch the “Kwangmyongsong-4” long-range rocket on February 7, 2016, ostensibly to put a satellite into space.
Despite growing speculation that the North may have launched an Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), South Korea’s JCS dismissed the claim during the regular press briefing held on 1030 KST (0130 GMT).
“The U.S. and the South are currently in the process of conducting a detailed analysis,” Roh Jae-cheon, head of public affairs for the JCS, told reporters when asked if there was any possibility that an ICBM had been launched. “It seems that there is a slim chance but the more detailed analysis is needed.”
Featured Image: Prime Minister’s Office, Published on September 14, 2016
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