The United States and South Korea launched a round of live-fire ballistic missile drills Saturday in response to North Korea’s launch of a new intercontinental ballistic missile, according news reports.
The test, which took place just hours after North Korea fired its latest ICBM, was reported by South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, citing and confirmed by military sources from both South Korea and the United States.
In a statement, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the drills were carried out from South Korea’s eastern coast and involved firing range-guided tactical ballistic missiles — South Korea’s Hyunmoo-2 and the United States’ ATACMS — into the East Sea, where the North Korean ICBM had splashed down during the Friday test.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff also noted that the allies had the ability for a “precise strike on the enemy’s leadership.”
While this isn’t the first ICBM North Korea has tested — the Hwasong-14 was launched on July 4 in what North Korea called a “gift package for the Yankees” — The New York Times noted that this was the first missile Pyongyang had tested that appeared capable of reaching the American mainland.
Writing on the blog of the Union of Concerned Scientists, David Wright said “that Los Angeles, Denver, and Chicago appear to be well within range of this missile, and that Boston and New York may be just within range.
“Washington, D.C. may be just out of range,” he added.
While the consistency of North Korea’s missile program has always been a significant issue, as has the country’s ability to effectively aim the weapons, it’s clear from this latest round of ICBM launches — two in 24 days — that North Korea is getting much closer to being able to carry out an attack on major U.S. cities.
Newly installed South Korean President Moon Jae-in has indicated he’s wary of using military options against Pyongyang. However, according to RTE, a statement from a U.S. military spokesman indicated that Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford and the commander of U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral Harry Harris, had “discussed military response options” with the chairman of South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Lee Sun-jin, in the wake of the Friday launch. That could indicating a shift toward exploring military intervention on South Korea’s side.
After the Friday launch, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson demanded China and Russia to exert their influence on North Korea to end its weapons testing, cautioning them that they would be held accountable for the Kim regime’s actions.
“As the principal economic enablers of North Korea’s nuclear weapon and ballistic missile development program, China and Russia bear unique and special responsibility for this growing threat to regional and global stability,” Tillerson said, according to Yonhap.
“The United States strongly condemns North Korea’s launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, the second this month, in blatant violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions that reflect the will of the international community.”
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