South Korean Leader Issues ‘Red Line Warning’ to North Korea after Alleged ICBM Firing

A pedestrian walks past a TV screen on a street broadcasting news of North Korea's missile launch, in Tokyo, Japan, 04 July 2017. Photo: Frank Robichon/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

  • South Korea’s President has warned North Korea not to go beyond ‘the point of no return’ after Pyongyang earlier tested what it claimed to be an intercontinental ballistic missile.
  • North may face “much stronger sanctions” if its latest missile launch is found to have involved an ICBM.
  • Moon says North Korea should wake up from its delusion that nuclear and missile development ensures its safety.
  • He has reiterated calls to Pyongyang to adopt a phased approach towards denuclearization.

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in has warned North Korea not to cross a “red line”, after earlier on Tuesday the regime of Kim Jong-un carried out a new ballistic missile test, and claimed that the rocket it tested was the much coveted intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

The ballistic missile tested by North Korea on Tuesday traveled some 900 km (560 miles) before it fell in the Sea of the Japan, likely in Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

It is North Korea’s 12th rocket test (and ninth successful one) since US President Donald Trump assumed office in January.

Even though the North Korean central news agency touted the success of its intercontinental ballistic missile launch, the US military characterized the tested rocket as a “land-based, intermediate-range” missile (IRBM).

Last week, a US nuclear expert warned that Kim Jong-un might be coming closer to being able to produce a hydrogen bomb, also known as thermonuclear weapon, as it is able to produce tritium, a key element.

North Korea recently carried out a new test of a rocket engine that could be used for powering an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the weapon that can threaten directly the US mainland.

On behalf of the Kim Jong-un regime, North Korea’s Ambassador to India recently offered the US a conditional moratorium on his country’s nuclear and ballistic missile tests.

The offer came against the backdrop of the death of US college student Otto Warmbier who passed away after 17 months in North Korean captivity, and for which Pyongyang denied responsibility, and of South Korea’s decision to suspend the further deployment of the US THAAD missile shield.

Ongoing activity and a large number of people have been spotted at North Korea’s nuclear test site, the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Facility, amid lingering concerns that the regime of leader Kim Jong-un could carry out its sixth nuclear test.

There have been reports that North Korea has been bracing for a preemptive US missile strike similar to the missile strike on the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in response to the April 4 attack with chemical weapons.

In early June, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed new sanctions on North Korea and entities trading with it over its ongoing development of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and continued violations of UN Security Council resolutions.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in presides over a meeting of the National Security Council after North Korea launched a ballistic missile, at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul, South Korea, 04 July 2017. Photo: Yonhap/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

‘Point of No Return’

South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday warned North Korea not to cross a “red line” after it claimed a successful test of its first intercontinental ballistic missile, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.

Moon urged the North to immediately halt its provocations because of the unknown type of consequence the communist state might have to face if it crosses the “red line.”

“I hope North Korea will not cross the point of no return,” the South Korean leader said in a meeting with former British Prime Minister David Cameron, according to his chief press secretary Yoon Young-chan.

His remarks came shortly after at an emergency meeting of South Korea’s National Security Council, Moon ordered his top security officials to seek “UN Security Council measures” in close cooperation with the country’s allies, including the United States.

Moon earlier noted the North may develop an ICBM in the “not too distant future.” Even prior to the North Korean reports, he had told his security officials to treat the latest provocation as if it were an ICBM.

“We plan to devise necessary measures assuming it may have been an ICBM,” he told the NSC meeting.

“I strongly urge North Korea to come out of its delusion that nuclear and missile development ensures its safety and make a decision to denuclearize,” he said.

Other South Korean officials also warned the North may face “much stronger sanctions” should its latest missile launch be confirmed to have involved an ICBM.

“If it is confirmed to have been an ICBM, I believe the level of pressure and sanctions currently imposed on North Korea will likely escalate,” a high-ranking official of the Blue House, i.e. South Korea’s Presidency, told reporters, while speaking on condition of anonymity.

Elusive ‘Denuclearization’

The latest North Korean missile launch came shortly after the South Korean President returned home from a visit to Washington where he and his US counterpart, Donald Trump, agreed to seek a phased denuclearization of the North, including enabling a resumption of dialogue with the reclusive state following its initial steps to denuclearize.

“I express a deep disappointment and regret over the fact that North Korea staged such a provocation only a few days after President Trump and I urged it to reduce its provocations, refrain from military action that causes instability, and make a strategic decision to abide by international duties and regulations,” Moon said.

“North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missiles are a matter of our life or death that threatens the very safety and lives of our people and our allies. We will not tolerate any such threat under any circumstances,” Moon added.

Nonetheless, South Korean officials said the country’s move to resume dialogue with the communist North remained unchanged despite its latest provocation.

“The policy to seek the resumption of dialogue while maintaining maximum pressure remains unchanged,” a Presidency official told reporters, while asking not to be identified.

The latest North Korean missile launch, and an alleged ICBM launch at that, comes just two days before the start of the G-20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, where Trump, Moon, and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are scheduled to hold a trilateral summit.

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