Monday morning saw the latest display of military prowess from North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, who launched four missiles from a known long-range launch site. At least three of these missiles landed a few hundred miles off the Japanese coast, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe placed his country on its highest level of alert. Now, we’re hearing more about these missiles’ intended purpose, which is unsettling to say the least, and what the United States is doing in response.
As it turns out, North Korea considered these missile launches as practice for striking U.S. military bases in Japan (of which there are many, along with an aircraft carrier off the coast). It’s a stark reminder that Kim Jong-Un warned Trump that he could launch a missile “anytime and anywhere,” and he’s trying to make good on that threat. The Washington Post passes on the disturbing report from Korean state media in Pyongyang:
Leader Kim Jong Un presided over the launches, “feasting his eyes on the trails of ballistic rockets,” the report from the Korean Central News Agency said, in language that will only heighten tensions in the region.
The four ballistic missiles fired Monday morning were launched by a military unit “tasked to strike the bases of the U.S. imperialist aggressor forces in Japan,” the KCNA report said.
The missiles in question are not believed to be intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), but rather, “medium-range Rodongs or extended-range Scuds.” U.S. Strategic Command determined that the actual missile launches “did not pose a threat to North America,” but clearly, Kim Jong-Un has that goal in mind. A North Korea defector already revealed that the dictator is “racing ahead” with his nuclear plan this year, and one day after the aggressive launches into the sea of Japan, the U.S. is making its countermove.
The Associated Press reports that the U.S. has already delivered missile launchers and other necessaries to South Korea, where the U.S. will set up a missile defense system that may put Beijing or Moscow on edge:
The plans to deploy the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, by the end of this year have angered not only North Korea, but also China and Russia, which see the system’s powerful radars as a security threat. Washington and Seoul say the system is defensive and not meant to be a threat to Beijing or Moscow.
The U.S. military said in a statement that THAAD is meant to intercept and destroy short and medium range ballistic missiles during the last part of their flights.
Adm. Harry Harris, head of the U.S. Pacific Command told the AP that the plan to deploy THAAD was part of an alliance decision, which was presumably made last year in response to North Korea’s accelerating missile and nuclear tests, the latter of which caused telltale artificial quakes. This won’t help existing U.S. tensions with Russia and China, but it sure doesn’t look like there’s another option.