Posted June. 09, 2017 07:08,
Updated June. 09, 2017 07:22
North Korea fired several short-range surface-to-ship missiles towards the East Sea from Wonsan in Gangwon Province on Thursday. It was the fifth firing over a one-month period since the inauguration of the Moon Jae-in administration in the South. Presiding over the first full-member National Security Council meeting, President Moon Jae-in said, “I proclaim that the South Korean government will never budge even a single inch or compromise.” We wonder how we can interpret his suspending of the deployment of additional four missile launchers for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system that was scheduled soon at the excuse of environmental impact assessment, despite him saying that he will never back off an inch when it comes to national security.
The missiles that flew about 200 kilometers before falling on Thursday are believed to be means designed to launch precision attacks on South Korean and U.S. naval vessels to prevent them from approaching North Korean shores. Prior to that, the North fired a Hwasong 12, the intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM) on May 14; a Pukguksong 2 type medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) on May 21; and a KN-06 surface-to-air missile on May 27; and a Scud-class ballistic missile on May 29. This means that the North is on track to completing a ‘full set of missiles” encompassing five kinds of long, intermediate, and mid-range missiles in succession, which can strike U.S. military bases in Japan and Guam and the U.S. military’s Pacific Command in Hawaii. “It is incumbent upon us to assume that North Korea today can range the United States with an ICBM carrying a nuclear warhead,” James Syring, director of the Missile Defense Agency under the U.S. Defense Department, testified at U.S. Congress on Wednesday.
On the same day, a source at the South Korean presidential office said, “We wonder whether THAAD should be deployed so urgently right now, and whether we have to deploy the system even by disregarding legal transparency and procedures.” The presidential office plans to keep intact the X-band radar and two missile launchers that are under test operation at the Seongju Country Club in North Gyeongsang Province, but is set to conduct strategic environmental impact assessment on the four launchers, which can takes more than a year. However, if THAAD equipment is left without operating for a long time, it is feared that the system sees performance deteriorate and incurs malfunction. The equipment that was deployed already is in temporary operation powered by an emergency power generator, but it is lamentable to hear that even the system failed to operate due to lack of fuel supply when the North fired the Pukguksong-2 type missile because protestors blocked introduction of fuel to the site. What will the South Korean government do if the U.S. decides to pull out the system?
On the controversy over THAAD in South Korea, Dick Durbin, Democratic Party floor leader of the U.S. Senate, said on Wednesday, “I cannot understand their logic.” When visiting Seoul on May 31, he told President Moon that “If South Korea does not want THAAD deployment, we could use the budget for other purpose.” In the U.S., there is serious concern about a potential crack in the South Korea-U.S. alliance ahead of the Seoul-Washington summit scheduled late this month. It is almost impossible to predict President Donald Trump, but the U.S. leader may also find it difficult to understand the South Korean government, which is reluctant to use THAAD system that was introduced to the South already.