Limits on missile payload of South Korea to be removed

AFP
US President Donald Trump and South Korea’s leader Moon Jae-in yesterday agreed to remove limits on the payload of South Korea’s missiles.
AFP

US President Donald Trump and South Korea’s leader Moon Jae-in yesterday agreed to remove limits on the payload of South Korea’s missiles, Seoul’s presidential office said.

The two leaders in a phone call “agreed to lift the cap on missile payload of South Korea as an effective countermeasure” against Pyongyang’s test on Sunday of what it described as a hydrogen bomb designed for a long-range missile, the presidential office said in a statement.

Seoul was previously restricted to a maximum warhead weight of 500 kilograms on its ballistic missiles, according to a bilateral agreement with the United States.

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council yesterday opened an emergency meeting to agree a response to North Korea’s sixth and most powerful nuclear test as calls mounted for a new raft of tough sanctions to be imposed on Pyongyang.

The US, Britain, France, Japan and South Korea requested the urgent meeting after Sunday’s test.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley urged the UN Security Council to impose the “strongest possible measures” against North Korea. “Only the strongest sanctions will enable us to resolve this problem through diplomacy,” she said.

With Seoul warning that Pyongyang could be preparing another missile launch, Japan’s UN representative called for a raft of tough new sanctions.

“We cannot waste any more time,” Japanese Ambassador Koro Bessho told reporters shortly before the Security Council meeting.

“We need North Korea to feel the pressure,” Bessho said. “If they go down this road, there will be consequences.”

South Korea’s defense ministry said Pyongyang may be preparing another missile launch after two tests in July of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that apparently brought much of the US mainland into range.

Every permanent member of the council has strongly condemned the blast, which UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres decried as “profoundly destabilizing.”

South Korea’s defense ministry said it was already strengthening its national defenses, in part by deploying, in cooperation with the US military, more Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile launchers.

That announcement came after Seoul fired a volley of ballistic missiles in an exercise simulating an attack on North Korea’s nuclear test site.

Pictures showed South Korean short-range Hyunmoo missiles roaring into the sky at dawn from a launch site on the east coast.

Pyongyang said the device it detonated on Sunday was a hydrogen bomb small enough to fit into a missile.

The blast threw down a new gauntlet to Trump. He met with his national security advisers, and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis issued an extraordinarily tough-sounding warning, saying that any new aggression against the US or its allies could lead to its “total annihilation.”

South Korean defense ministry officials estimated the strength of the blast at 50 kilotons but did not confirm whether it was a hydrogen bomb, saying only that “a variety of nuclear material” had been used.

But Defense Minister Song Young-moo said Seoul believed Pyongyang had succeeded in miniaturizing its nuclear weapons to fit into an ICBM.

Signs that North Korea was “preparing for another ballistic missile launch have consistently been detected since Sunday’s test,” the ministry said.

Before his phone call with Trump, Moon, who advocates engagement as well as penalties to bring Pyongyang to the negotiating table, had earlier called for new UN sanctions to “completely isolate North Korea.”


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