BREAKING NEWS: North Korea “Test Fired” Missiles
The latest development in rapidly deteriorating North-South relations. From Bloomberg:
North Korea may have fired short- range missiles into waters off its west coast as part of a regular military exercise, a South Korean government official said. The Defense Ministry is trying to confirm the launches.
The official, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue, couldn’t say how many missiles were launched. North Korea fired “several” missiles at about 10:30 a.m. Seoul time today, Yonhap News reported earlier.
The launches came as Kim Jong Il’s regime accused the U.S. of delaying six-nation negotiations aimed at dismantling North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
Efforts by South Korea, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia to persuade North Korea to disarm are deadlocked after the communist country missed a Dec. 31 deadline to declare its nuclear programs. North Korea and the U.S. failed to break the impasse during talks in Geneva earlier this month.
UPDATE 1: From Associate Press:
South Korea says North Korea’s latest missile launches appear to have been part of routine training.
The North reportedly launched the short-range missiles earlier Friday in apparent anger over the new South Korean government’s tougher policy on its communist neighbor.
South Korean presidential spokesman Lee Dong-kwan told reporters that Seoul was “closely monitoring the situation.”
The launches came as the North issued a stern rebuke to Washington over an impasse at nuclear disarmament talks.
The communist country warned that the Americans’ attitude could “gravely” affect the continuing disablement of Pyongyang’s atomic facilities.
UPDATE 2: According to the DailyNK’s sources*, North Korea had been planning on conducting this test for the past few days. The missile tested was a Styx Anti-ship missile. According to one of my own sources, the test may be related to the Six-Party Talks stalement:
우리 군과 정부 관계부처는 북한군이 지난 25일부터 이틀간 서해 북방한계선 부근 해역에 고속정 한 척을 대기시키고 단거리 미사일 발사를 준비하는 모습을 포착한 것으로 알려졌습니다.
Offices related to our [South Korea’s] military and government announced that they knew that the North Korean military, starting on the 25th and for the two days after, had a high-speed boat waiting in the vicinity of the Northern boundry line and appeared to be preparing to launch a short range missile.
북한군이 발사를 준비했던 미사일은 사거리 46km의 옛소련제 스틱스 대함 미사일로 실제로는 발사되지는 않았습니다.
The missile launched by the North’s military had a range of 46km and was a Styx Missile from the former USSR.
No English version as of yet English version here.
UPDATE 3: The Blue House has officially confirmed the test. Blue House spokesman Lee Dong Kwan told reporters in Seoul:
“We are monitoring the situation…I believe that North Korea would not want to jeopardize inter-Korean relations”
Bloomberg quotes Baek Seung Joo, of the Korea Institute of Defense Analysis who believes
Kim is “putting pressure” on South Korean President Lee Myung Bak’s administration in an effort to influence its North Korea policy, said Baek Seung Joo of the Korea Institute of Defense Analysis in Seoul. “It is flexing its muscles to warn Lee that inter-Korean relations can be sacrificed if he pursues a hard-line policy.”
UPDATE 4: Jon Herskovitz, via Reuters, added the following:
At about the same time as the reported missile launch, North Korea’s official media launched a rhetorical volley at the United States, blaming it for pushing six-country talks aimed at scrapping the North’s nuclear arms plans into deadlock.
“If the United States continues to delay the resolution of the nuclear problem by insisting on something that doesn’t exist, it could have a grave impact on the disablement of the nuclear facility that has been sought so far,” the North’s KCNA news agency quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying.
He concluded with this quote by USFK commander General B.B. Bell:
“If North Korea should attack … we will defeat them quickly and decisively and end the fight on our terms,” General B. B. Bell said earlier on Friday, before the reported missile launch.
UPDATE 5: The LA Times also muses about a possible link between today’s test and the stalled Six-Party Talks:
One of the reasons why the North may be feeling ignored is that the United States is preoccupied with a presidential election and seems unlikely to be pushing for any major breakthroughs in the laboring six-nation nuclear talks, Cheng said.
North Korea also is angry at Washington for maintaining that Pyongyang is still pursuing a uranium-based atomic bomb program, and asserts that it has taken steps to prove that the charge is untrue. “The United States is clinging to shabby magic to make us a criminal in order to save face,” the North Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by the government’s official Korean Central News Agency.
“If the United States keeps delaying the resolution of the nuclear issue . . . it could gravely affect disablement of nuclear facilities,” the statement said.
North Korea had agreed last year to shut down and disable its sole functioning nuclear reactor, at Yongbyon, and other atomic facilities in exchange for aid and political concessions. Washington has insisted that it still has not received a full account of the North’s nuclear activities.
Now Pyongyang may be growing impatient, especially at the end of a harsh winter in which fuel and food shortages could be at their worst.
South Korean President Lee, who took office a month ago, has taken a tougher line toward the communists to the north than his predecessors, including threatening to link future economic cooperation with the resolution of the nuclear standoff, said Hak Soon Paik, a North Korean expert at the South’s Sejong Institute.
More details as I get’em.