North Korea’s Launch of Ballistic Missiles Raises New Worries
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea launched four ballistic missiles from its long-range rocket launch site Monday morning, the South Korean military said. The launch prompted South Korean security officials to call for the early deployment of an advanced U.S. missile defense system that has provoked China.
The missiles took off from Tongchang-ri, in northwest North Korea, and flew an average of 620 miles before falling into the sea between North Korea and Japan, said Noh Jae-chon, a South Korean military spokesman. The type of missile fired was not immediately clear, but Noh said it was unlikely that they were intercontinental ballistic missiles, which the North had recently threatened to test-launch.
During a meeting of the South Korea’s National Security Council, Hwang Kyo-ahn, the acting president of South Korea, called for the early deployment of the U.S. missile defense system known as THAAD, or Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense.
The United States and South Korea have agreed to complete the THAAD deployment within the year. They say it is meant to protect South Korea and U.S. military sites there from North Korean missiles.
Hwang also called on his government to look aggressively for “ways to effectively strengthen the United States’ extended deterrence” for South Korea, referring to Washington’s ability to deter attacks on its allies with the help of its nuclear forces. Hwang did not elaborate, but his comment came days after The New York Times reported that President Donald Trump’s national security deputies recently discussed various options against North Korea, including the possibility of reintroducing nuclear weapons to South Korea as a bold warning.
“If North Korea gets a hold of nuclear weapons, its consequences are too horrible to think about,” Hwang said.
In his New Year’s Day speech, the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, said his country was in the “final stage” of preparing for its first ICBM test. In February, the North launched a ballistic missile that the U.S. Strategic Command determined was not a threat to the United States.