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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Nov. 30)

2017/11/30 07:11

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Crossing a line

North Korea has crossed the line. On Wednesday morning, it fired an ICBM capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. Pyongyang said that the missile shot up to an altitude of 4,500 kilometers (2,796 miles) and fell into the East Sea. Korean and American experts estimated that the missile, if launched at a normal angle, could have flown more than 10,000 kilometers.

If North Korea's announcement is true, it has reached the final stage of developing nuclear weapons that can strike not only the continental U.S. but also the rest of the world. That constitutes "crossing the red line" as defined by President Moon Jae-in. After the missile launch, U.S. President Donald Trump said, "I will only tell you that we will take care of it" with no further details.

The North's provocation is thrusting the Korean Peninsula into deeper uncertainty. Pyongyang will certainly press ahead with its development of nuclear armaments, including loading nuclear warheads onto ICBMs within the next few months. After fitting a nuclear warhead onto the type of missile it fired on Wednesday, North Korea will most likely call for arms reduction talks with the United States.

How Washington will react is uncertain. It could enforce a blockade or carry out a pre-emptive strike or try negotiations with Pyongyang. The worst-case scenario would be Uncle Sam pulling his armed forces from South Korea, even though that likelihood is slim. But we can hardly rule out the possibility.

That should be a wake-up call for the Moon administration. If it is overly concentrated on the successful staging of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, the administration could make the mistake of underestimating the situation. When asked if it had information on signs of a missile launch in the North, the Joint Chief of Staff said it did not. But the Blue House said Moon ordered his staff to inform the public of signs of the provocation. Who is lying?

   Moreover, our Army carried out a missile drill shortly after the missile launch. That suggests that the administration was already aware of the signs. We also wonder why Moon is reluctant to use the word ICBM and instead adheres to a somewhat weird combination of words such as "ballistic missile crossing continents."

   His remarks that we should prevent Washington from considering a pre-emptive strike can trigger a misunderstanding. It is time to build pressure on the North based on our alliance.

(END)

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