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[Editorial] Beef up missile defense

Military indicates NK missiles not directed to S. Korea; Seoul responds passively to threats

North Korea said that its test launches of “new-type” ballistic short-range missiles last week were “a demonstration of its power” and a “solemn warning to South Korea.”

“South Korea’s leader must not make a mistake of ignoring the warning,” North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said, according to the North Korean Central News Agency.

The state media outlet said that Kim instructed the missile launches and personally watched them.

The general view of the North’s provocation is that it seeks to raise its negotiating power ahead of nuclear talks with the US.

But the South should not view North Korea’s missile launches only in the light of negotiations.

It is concerning that the North has upgraded its missile capability stage by stage.

North Korea is likely to test-fire the new-type missiles several more times before deploying them for actual warfare.

The South Korean military failed to track the two missiles North Korea fired. It announced the first missile flew 430 kilometers but later corrected the distance to some 600km after its joint detailed analysis with the US military.

The South’s military authorities said the missiles test-fired by the North look similar to Russia’s Iskander ballistic missiles. The Iskander is nuclear-capable, can fly at a “flattened” altitude of around 40 km and make in-flight guidance adjustments. It is reportedly hard to intercept this type of missiles with the US and South Korean missile defenses now in place.

If the South is unable to intercept a missile, its strategic facilities within its range can be destroyed.

A missile with a range of 600km can reach anywhere in South Korea.

South Korea must urgently beef up its missile defense capabilities.

The military authorities appear to be trying to avoid admitting North Korea’s missile threats.

The South Korea-US Combined Forces Command noted the missile launches were “not a threat directed at South Korea or the US.”

Can the military relax because the missiles fired by the North were not directed at South Korea when the entire nation falls within their range if they are fired southward and we are unable to intercept them?

While the North launched missiles then said they were a warning to the South, the South Korean president is silent.

President Moon Jae-in has not presided over a security meeting to discuss how to respond to the latest missile launches.

Cheong Wa Dae and the government have not issued any statement protesting the North Korean provocation.

Rather, the government tried to calm the fallout from the North’s missile launches.

Asked about North Korea’s intent behind its continued missile provocations, a Cheong Wa Dae official told reporters: “We cannot say openly about it.”

As for the KCNA reports, the official said that the South cannot make its position clear in response to them “because the reports are not an official North Korean position.”

Few would deny that all of North Korea’s news media speak for Kim.

The North’s ballistic missile launches violate UN Security Council resolutions.

Nevertheless, the North turned on the South, likely because of the latter’s submissive attitude toward Pyongyang.

When the North fired ballistic missiles in May, Cheong Wa Dae and the military hesitated to call them ballistic missiles. Their analysis of the missile launches is still not over.

In April, Kim chastened Moon not to meddle unnecessarily in bilateral affairs of North Korea and the US.

The South Korean government was silent at that time, too.

The North continues to insult the South because the South does not say a thing about it.

North Korea insists it has developed nuclear weapons and missiles to protect its regime from the US threats, but the real purpose of its nuclear and missile programs is to threaten and influence the South.

And yet the Moon administration is trying to look the other way.

If the South responds passively to the threats while just waiting for dialogue, its security crisis will only deepen.