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S. Korea, U.S. aware of reports of N. Korea’s missile launches

S. Korea, U.S. aware of reports of N. Korea’s missile launches

Posted August. 19, 2019 08:37,   

Updated August. 19, 2019 08:37


South Korea and the United States’ intelligence agencies had reportedly detected the movement of North Korea’s transporter erector launcher (TEL) carrying short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM) in Tongchon, Kangwon Province, in the morning of last Thursday, a day ahead of the North’s firing of two missiles. It was a few hours before President Moon Jae-in delivered his Liberation Day speech, in which he vowed to establish a “peace economy.”

U.S. reconnaissance satellites perceived the movement of a TEL and troops in Tongchon area on Thursday morning, according to multiple government sources. Both Seoul and Washington’s intelligence agencies considered it to be a signal of an impending provocation, and mobilized their intelligence assets to track and monitor Pyongyang’s movements. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un seemed likely to observe the launch as he did on Aug. 10, and the firing could even take place on Liberation Day. The two countries’ authorities had kept a close eye on the developments, paying attention to the North’s intention to try to take a provocative step shortly before President Moon’s Liberation Day speech, and reported this to the country’s military leaders and the presidential office.

It was in fact on Friday that North Korea launched two projectiles while it only tested the deployment of a TEL a day earlier. Thursday’s action was apparently a rehearsal for the next day, when Chairman Kim visited and inspected the launch site.

North Korea’s media outlets such as the Korean Central News Agency and Rodong Sinmun released Saturday photos of the North Korean leader guiding the test-fire of the projectiles, which are presumed to resemble the U.S. Army’s missile system ATACMS, similar to the one Pyongyang launched on Aug. 10. According to the news outlets, Kim expressed great satisfaction over the remarkable success of his country’s newly developed weapon program, saying, “Everyone should remember that it is the party’s core plan and resolute will to possess invincible military capabilities no one would dare to provoke.”

Sang-Ho Yun ysh1005@donga.com