- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 3, 2016

A ballistic missile fired by North Korea landed in waters controlled by Japan Wednesday, violating U.N. Security Council resolutions and sparking a angry reaction from Tokyo just a day after Japanese military officials warned of Pyongyang’s rising nuclear threat.

The midrange Rodong missile was not carrying a warhead when it slammed into waters within Japan’s exclusive economic zone after being fired from a launch site roughly 620 miles away in southwestern North Korea.

The test is only the latest provocation from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and comes just weeks after South Korea and the U.S. struck a deal to install a sophisticated anti-missile defense system in the South fiercely opposed by Pyongyang.

South Korean military officials said the missile was one of two fired by Pyongyang on Wednesday, according to the Yonhap news agency in Seoul, which reported that one of the missiles exploded shortly after launch, while the other soared toward Japan.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the missile had fallen into Tokyo’s territorial waters and called it an “unforgivable act of aggression that represents a grave threat to the security of Japan.”

The U.N. Security Council, at the request of the U.S., Japan and South Korea, held an emergency session Wednesday afternoon to discuss the latest North Korean provocation.

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“I think this is something the council should take extremely seriously,” Britain’s Deputy U.N. Amb. Peter Wilson said. “This is a clear violation of Security Council resolutions.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also condemned the launches, saying North Korea should “immediately cease and abandon all its existing nuclear and ballistic missile activities in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner” and “refrain from any further provocative actions,” according to The Associated Press.

Officials said the missile appeared to have hit waters roughly 150 miles off the coast of northwestern Japan and that the nation’s self-defense forces would remain on alert in case of further launches.

Analysts say the North is flexing its muscle in part to protest South Korea’s decision to deploy the American-made Terminal High Altitude Area Defens, or THAAD, system.

Wednesday’s launches came roughly two weeks after Pyongyang test-fired two other Rodong missiles, as well as a Scud missile.

But the geopolitical proximity of Japan, another close U.S. ally in the region, may also factor into Pyongyang’s calculus.

Japan’s participation has been key to the success of sharp economic sanctions the Obama administration has imposed on North Korea in response to Pyongyang’s underground test of a miniaturized nuclear device in January.

Wednesday’s launches came a day after Japanese military officials issued an annual defense review, a 484-page white paper that homed in the growing threat posed by North Korea’s push to develop nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles.

The Yonhap news agency, meanwhile, cited the South Korean military as saying North Korea’s action on Wednesday was aimed at demonstrating Pyongyang’s ability to target all of South Korea and neighboring countries by launching a missile that may be able to carry a nuclear warhead down the road. “Some neighboring countries have U.S. radar installations that are keeping close tabs on the reclusive country,” Yonhap reported.

Regional friction over the system has swirled since February, when Washington and Seoul announced the formalization of talks toward deploying it in response to North Korea’s January nuclear test — a move U.S. officials said was part of Pyongyang’s ballistic nuclear weapons development program.

The THAAD issue has been unquestionably sticky for South Korean President Park Geun-hye, who has sought to promote warm relations with China despite Beijing’s ongoing economic support for North Korea. Chinese officials have warned that South Korea’s embrace of THAAD could damage the bilateral relationship, saying the missile defense system could undercut China’s own nuclear deterrent.

But the talk of THAAD has also drawn the ire of Russia, where officials say it would be an unnecessarily aggressive U.S. military move in north Asia.

Ms. Park is slated to visit Russia next month to attend an economic forum and discuss North Korea’s nuclear program with President Vladimir Putin, the South Korean president’s office said Wednesday.

⦁ This article was based in part on wire service reports.



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