south korea



SEOUL – South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Thursday US President Donald Trump has promised to seek Seoul’s approval before pursuing any option against nuclear-armed North Korea.

Trump’s recent aggressive comments about deploying possible military options underscored his resolve to counter the threat from the North’s nuclear weapons and missile programs.

However, they do not appear to have been made with the intention to take military action, Moon said at a news conference to mark his first 100 days in office.

Moon urged North Korea not to make further provocations, saying it would face much tougher sanctions that the impoverished country would be unable to withstand if it persists with its nuclear weapons development.


After North Korea Test, South Korea Pushes to Build Up Its Own Missiles

SEOUL, South Korea — The United States agreed to start negotiations to allow South Korea to build more powerful ballistic missiles in order to counter North Korea’s fast-advancing missile technologies, the office of the South’s president said on Saturday.

President Moon Jae-in of South Korea, long considered a dovish leader, called for arms buildup talks with Washington hours after the North launched an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, that experts said had a range long enough to reach the West Coast of the United States and potentially target Chicago and New York. The White House quickly accepted the proposal, his office said.

Mr. Moon’s top national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, called his White House counterpart, Gen. H.R. McMaster, early on Saturday to propose that the allies immediately start negotiations to allow South Korea to build up its missile capabilities. Seven hours later, General McMaster confirmed that Washington accepted the proposal, said Mr. Moon’s spokesman, Yoon Young-chan.

There was no immediate confirmation of the exchange from the White House.

Earlier on Saturday, Mr. Moon also ordered his government to cooperate with the United States to install an advanced American missile defense battery known as Thaad, whose deployment in South Korea had been suspended since he took office in May.

Mr. Moon’s actions signaled that the growing missile threat from North Korea was spurring an arms buildup in Northeast Asia. Japan earlier said that it was considering buying ballistic missile defense systems from the United States.

But China has adamantly opposed installing the Thaad missile defense system in South Korea, arguing that it would only makes tensions with North Korea more volatile and could undermine China’s own nuclear deterrent by giving the United States another means to monitor its missiles.

On Saturday, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the resumed deployment of Thaad, in a statement that was slightly longer, and in some ways more strongly worded, than its statement earlier in the day criticizing North Korea’s missile test.

“China is gravely concerned with the course of action taken by South Korea,” a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, Geng Shuang, said in the statement. “Deploying Thaad won’t solve South Korea’s security concerns, won’t solve the related issues on the Korean Peninsula and will only further complicate issues.”

Missile analysts remain uncertain and even doubtful that North Korea has cleared all the technical hurdles to build a reliable nuclear-tipped ICBM. But the test on Friday night left little doubt that the country, although cut off from most of the global economy and hit with several rounds of United Nations sanctions, was getting closer to its goal of arming itself with long-range missiles that can deliver nuclear warheads to the United States.

South Korea fears that by building nuclear missiles that can reach major American cities, North Korea is trying to weaken the United States’ resolve over whether to intervene on the South’s behalf should war break out on the Korean Peninsula.
On Saturday, Mr. Moon called for strengthening South Korea’s deterrence capabilities, while stressing the importance of the military alliance with the United States.

“We must actively look for measures to secure our military’s own forces to deter and effectively deal with North Korea’s nuclear threats,” Mr. Moon said after an emergency meeting of his National Security Council on Saturday.

South Korea wants to build ballistic missiles that can deliver more powerful payloads to targets in North Korea, including the location of its leadership and its missile and nuclear sites, most of which are hidden deep underground, defense officials here said. A key hurdle to the South Korean ambition has been a treaty the South signed with Washington in the 1970s in return for American help in building its missiles.

Under the deal, South Korea is allowed to build ballistic missiles with a range of up to 497 miles but is barred from tipping them with warheads weighing more than 500 kilograms, or half a ton, because of concerns about a regional arms race. South Korea wants to double the upper limit of the payload to a ton, officials here said.

(South Korea can already load warheads weighing up to two tons on ballistic missiles with shorter ranges, but those missiles cannot reach key missile bases in northern North Korea.)

The South Korean demands reflected growing regional jitters over how the North’s growing missile capabilities may affect Washington’s defense commitment to its allies in the region. On Saturday, Mr. Moon warned that the latest North Korean test could lead to “a fundamental change in the security structure in Northeast Asia.”

“U.S. policy for 21 years has been to prevent this day from coming, and now it has,” said Adam Mount, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress in Washington, referring to the North’s ICBM test on Friday.
“North Korea didn’t test an ICBM to launch a bolt from the blue against Washington; they’re hoping to split the United States from its allies.”

Barry Pavel, director of the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, said North Korea could use a nuclear-tipped ICBM capability to “target the United States and deter U.S. security cooperation with its close Asian allies.”

“Once it is assured that it has a ‘nuclear shield,’ North Korea is likely to act much more aggressively in every other area of its foreign and military policies,” said Mr. Pavel. In “Rolling Back the Growing North Korean Threat,” the Atlantic Council’s memo to Mr. Trump published last month, Mr. Pavel and the co-author Robert A. Manning said that such North Korean aggressions could include “increasingly dangerous provocations and the sale of weapons of mass destruction to other nations and terrorist groups for much-needed cash.”

Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson on Friday reaffirmed that the United States “will never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea nor abandon our commitment to our allies and partners in the region.” At the United Nations Security Council, Washington is urging China and Russia to agree to a new set of economic sanctions against North Korea, including severely curtailing the country’s access to oil supplies from the outside.
China and Russia supply nearly all of North Korea’s oil imports and also host tens of thousands of the North workers. A bulk of the workers’ earnings end up in the coffers of the North Korean leadership, according to human rights groups and defectors.

”As the principal economic enablers of North Korea’s nuclear weapon and ballistic missile development program, China and Russia bear unique and special responsibility for this growing threat to regional and global stability,” Mr. Tillerson said.

But there is a growing frustration over China’s reluctance to use its economic leverage to rein in the North’s nuclear ambitions and over Washington’s inability to persuade Beijing. China accounts for more than 90 percent of North Korea’s external trade, but it fears the collapse of the Communist government on its border more than a nuclear armed-North Korea.

Mr. Moon acted on such frustration when he decided on Saturday to reverse his decision to suspend the deployment of Thaad, the American missile defense battery. China has vehemently opposed the arrival of a powerful American antimissile radar on its doorstep. Many of Mr. Moon’s progressive domestic supporters have also opposed the deployment, calling it a dangerous escalation of tensions in the region.

One of the first things Mr. Moon did after taking office was to suspend the Thaad deployment until a study of an environmental impact of the deployment is completed.

”China has weakened its own rationale for opposing the Thaad deployment by failing to use its unique influence with North Korea to stop its second ICBM test,” said Cheong Seong-chang, a senior researcher at the Sejong Institute, a think-tank in South Korea.

North Korea first tested its ICBM, the Hwasong-14, on July 4, although in that earlier launching, North Korea didn’t demonstrate the missile’s full range.

Mr. Cheong said that South Korea and the United States could reconsider the Thaad deployment only if China helped denuclearize North Korea by stopping oil shipments, sending North Korean workers home and cracking down on cross-border smuggling that helps keep the North Korean economy running. North Korea remained defiant.

“The U.S. trumpeting about war and extreme sanctions and threat against the D.P.R.K. only emboldens the latter and offers a better excuse for its access to nukes,” said the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, referring to the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, after watching the missile test on Friday.

North Korea will conduct more ICBM tests to secure and demonstrate an ability to deliver a warhead through the Earth’s atmosphere, said Kim Dong-yub, a missile expert at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies at Kyungnam University in Seoul.

Missile experts said that one of the last hurdles North Korea must clear is the so-called re-entry technology that allows a warhead to survive intense heat and the destruction of its outer shell as it plunges through the atmosphere from space. Mr. Kim said that in future tests, the North might try to demonstrate an ability to detonate a warhead after it has survived re-entry.

North Korea Launches A New Ballistic Missile, Seoul And The Pentagon Say

A man looks at images depicting missile launches and military exercises, on a display board in Pyongyang earlier this week.

Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images


North Korea has launched “one unidentified missile” from its northern Jagang province, the South Korean Defense Ministry announced in a statement. The Pentagon confirmed to NPR that it has also identified a missile launch from the North.

Citing the Japanese chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, The Associated Press reports the missile “flew for about 45 minutes and appeared to have landed in the waters of Japan’s exclusive economic zone.”

There have been no immediate reports of damage, and it was not immediately clear what type of missile the North was testing.

The missile launch follows a string of tests by the North Korean regime this year, the most recent of which came earlier this month. That test marked a milestone for Pyongyang: a successful intercontinental missile launch.

“Testing an ICBM [intercontinental ballistic missile] represents a new escalation of the threat to the United States, our allies and partners, the region and the world,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement at the time. “Global action is required to stop a global threat.”

It also comes less than two weeks after the South Korean government made a rare diplomatic overture to Pyongyang, seeking new military talks with Kim Jong Un’s regime. That offer was never accepted.

Much of the international community has long tried another tack to slow North Korea’s weapons program: sanctions for violating international law with its missile tests. But NPR’s Elise Hu notes that approach has proven less successful than hoped for:

“Despite ‘tough-on-paper’ sanctions designed to stop the flow of nuclear weapons material into North Korea as well as to deliver economic punishment on the regime, the latest research shows the numerous countries expected to enforce the sanctions aren’t doing so. The reasons the sanctions have fallen short include: The sanctions are too complicated to implement, private businesses independently aid North Korea (knowingly or not), and Pyongyang has grown increasingly deft in evading sanctions as it has become more isolated.”

The long-running animus between North Korea, its neighbors and the U.S. has only escalated in recent weeks, with the rivals trading increasingly barbed words.

North Korea is “the single most dangerous threat facing the international community right now,” Gen. Mark Milley, the chief of staff of the U.S. Army, told the National Press Club on Thursday. “It is clear, based on [the ICBM launch] over the July 4 weekend, that North Korea has advanced significantly and quicker than many had expected.”

He added that North Korea’s military threat is “the one thing I’m worried about.”

“A war on the Korean peninsula would be highly deadly. It would be horrific,” Milley said. “The United States military, in combination with the South Korean military, would utterly destroy the North Korean military — but that would be done at high cost in terms of human life.”

U.S. and South Korea confirm ICBM test, launch joint military exercises


BEIJING — The U.S. army and the South Korean military responded to North Korea’s July 4 test missile test by hosting joint military exercises, firing missiles off the eastern coast of South Korea in what Pacific Command called an “ironclad” show of resolve.

The move came shortly after the U.S. confirmed that North Korea’s July 4 launch was indeed an intercontinental ballistic missile test. Japanese and South Korean authorities delivered the same assessment, with Seoul reporting that the two-stage missiles has a range of about 4,300 to 5,000 miles.

South Korea’s Defense Minister said in a Wednesday morning briefing that there is “high possibility” Pyongyang will stage another nuclear test and noted gains in their efforts to miniaturize a warhead — both steps toward developing nuclear-tipped weapon capable of hitting the mainland United States.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un took the chance to tout the launch and taunt President Donald Trump, calling the missile an Independence Day gift, according to North Korean state media, and hinting at more tests to come.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has called for “global action” to stop that and the United States, South Korea and Japan have requested an emergency meeting of the United Nations security council for Wednesday.

While everyone seems to agree the July 4 test is a game-changer, the world seems as split as ever over what to do next, a diplomatic impasse set to test President Donald Trump.

As president-elect, Trump said North Korea’s plan to develop an ICBM capable of hitting the United States “won’t happen” and has since made tough talk on the issue a signature.

Trump must now weigh how to recalibrate his strategy as it becomes increasingly clear that the United States and its allies have different plans and priorities than China and, now, Russia.

In a joint statement issued Tuesday, Beijing and Moscow called for a “double suspension” that would see Pyongyang freeze its weapon program and the U.S. and South Korea stop joint military exercises.

Not long after, the U.S. and South Korea were firing missiles off the Korean coast.

“It’s quite obvious that China and Russia’s suggestion of dual-suspension is different from the approach taken by the U.S. and its Japanese and South Korean ally,” said Deng Yuwen, a Beijing-based expert on North Korea and its relationship with China.

“On the Korean Peninsular issues,” he said, “Two opposing blocs have been formed.”

A world divided over a North Korean ICBM test  is not what Trump had in mind.

Since taking office, Trump has focused his efforts and remarks on getting China to pressure North Korea to back down, in part by choking of the regime’s access to resources.

This idea formed the basis of talks between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-lago in April, where Washington and Beijing appeared to put aside differences in the name of cooperation on North Korea and trade.

That arrangement seems to be failing fast. In recent weeks, there have been signs that Trump is frustrated with China’s progress. On June 21, he tweeted: “It has not worked out.”

On Tuesday, as news of the North Korean test broke, but before missile was confirmed to be an ICBM, the president vented again. “Hard to believe that South Korea and Japan will put up with this much longer,” he wrote.

“Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!”  He did not say what type of move he hoped for.

The focus on Chinese efforts has exasperated Beijing, which insists it has done its part to pressure Pyongyang and resents being singled out.

“The international community has no solutions,” said Song Xiaojun, who used to run a government linked-military magazine. “The U.S. wants to transfer the burdens to China.”

Both foreign and Chinese analysts expressed frustration that the United States did not seem focused on getting North Korea to the table.

“The first obvious step is talking to them, that’s just kind diplomacy 101,” said John Delury, an assistant professor at Seoul’s Yonsei University.
“Obama didn’t do enough about that either,” he added. “There has been a severe drought of talking at a high level with North Koreans,” he said.

The problem is that the U.S. thinks that dialogue is a reward for North Korea,” he added. “That’s a misguided concept.”

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Beijing would push for dialogue at the United Nations. “We hope the relevant discussions  of the North Korea nuclear issue focus on dialogue, negotiation, and peaceful settlement as soon as possible,” he said.

Dan Lamothe reported from Washington; Shirley Feng, Luna Lin and Yang Liu reported from Beijing.

South Korea says it wants to reopen communications with North amid missile crisis

South Korea said on Wednesday it wanted to reopen communications with North Korea as new President Moon Jae-in seeks a two-track policy involving sanctions and dialogue with its reclusive neighbor to rein in its nuclear and missile programs.

North Korea has made no secret of the fact that it is working to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of striking the U.S. mainland and has ignored calls to rein in its nuclear and missile programs, even from China, its lone major ally.

Its latest ballistic missile launch, in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions, was on Sunday which it said was a test of its capability to carry a “large-size heavy nuclear warhead”, drawing Security Council condemnation.

“Our most basic stance is that communication lines between South and North Korea should open,” Lee Duk-haeng, a spokesman for the South’s Unification Ministry, told reporters. “The Unification Ministry has considered options on this internally but nothing has been decided yet.”

Communications were severed by the North last year, Lee said, in the wake of new sanctions following North Korea’s last nuclear test and Pyongyang’s decision to shut down a joint industrial zone operated inside the North.

North Korea and the rich, democratic South are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. The North defends its weapons programs as necessary to counter U.S. hostility.

Moon won an election last week campaigning on a more moderate approach to the North and said after taking office that he wants to pursue dialogue as well as pressure to stop the North’s weapons programs.

Moon’s envoy to the United States, South Korean media mogul Hong Seok-hyun, left for Washington early on Wednesday. Hong said he would discuss North Korea with high-ranking officials in Washington.

Hong said South Korea had not yet received official word from the United States on whether Seoul should pay for an anti-missile U.S. radar system that has been deployed outside Seoul.

U.S. President Donald Trump has said he wants South Korea to pay for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system which detected Sunday’s launch.

China has strongly opposed THAAD, saying it can spy into its territory, and South Korean companies have been hit in China by a nationalist backlash over the deployment.

The United States said on Tuesday it believed it could persuade China to impose new U.N. sanctions on North Korea and warned that Washington would also target and “call out” countries supporting Pyongyang.

Speaking to reporters ahead of a closed-door U.N. Security Council meeting, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley also made clear that Washington would only talk to North Korea once it halted its nuclear program.

Trump has called for an immediate halt to North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests and U.S. Disarmament Ambassador Robert Wood said on Tuesday that China’s leverage was key and Beijing could do more.

Trump warned this month that a “major, major conflict” with North Korea was possible, and in a show of force, sent the Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group to Korean waters to conduct drills with South Korea and Japan.

South Korea Elects Moon Jae-in, Who Backs Talks With North, as President

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea elected Moon Jae-in, a human rights lawyer who favors dialogue with North Korea, as president on Tuesday, returning the nation’s liberals to power after nearly a decade in the political wilderness and setting up a potential rift with the United States over the North’s nuclear weapons program.

His victory caps a remarkable national drama in which a corruption scandal, mass protests and impeachment forced a South Korean president from office for the first time in almost 60 years, leaving the conservative establishment in disarray and its former leader in jail.

Mr. Moon, 64, a son of North Korean refugees, faces the challenge of enacting changes to limit the power of big business and address the abuses uncovered in his predecessor’s downfall. He must also make good on his promise of a new approach to North Korea while balancing relations with the United States and China.

His election immediately scrambles the geopolitics over North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. Even as the Trump administration urges the world to step up pressure on Pyongyang, it now faces the prospect of a critical ally — one with the most at stake in any conflict with the North — breaking ranks and adopting a more conciliatory approach.

Mr. Moon has argued that Washington’s reliance on sanctions and pressure has been ineffective and that it is time to give engagement and dialogue with the North another chance, an approach favored by China. He has also called for a review of the Pentagon’s deployment of an antimissile defense system in South Korea that the Chinese government has denounced.

North Korean troops marching in a parade for the 105th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, the country’s founder, in Pyongyang last month. CreditWong Maye-E/Associated Press

In a nationally televised speech before cheering supporters, Mr. Moon declared that he would “be a president for all the people.” He said he would work with political rivals to create a country where “justice rules and common sense prevails.”

With all ballots counted on Wednesday morning, Mr. Moon was in first place with 41 percent of the vote, according to the National Election Commission. He was followed by Hong Joon-pyo, a conservative who had pledged a tough stance against North Korea, with 24 percent, and Ahn Cheol-soo, a centrist, with 21 percent.

Unlike his predecessors, Mr. Moon does not have a two-month transition period. He will take office on Wednesday.

Mr. Moon’s position on North Korea is a sharp departure from that of his two immediate predecessors, conservatives who tended to view anything less than strict enforcement of sanctions against the North as ideologically suspect.

While he condemned “the ruthless dictatorial regime of North Korea” during his campaign, Mr. Moon also argued that South Korea must “embrace the North Korean people to achieve peaceful reunification one day.”

The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or Thaad, system was installed on a golf course in Seongju, South Korea, last month. CreditLee Jong-hyeon/News1, via Reuters

“To do that, we must recognize Kim Jong-un as their ruler and as our dialogue partner,” he said. “The goal of sanctions must be to bring North Korea back to the negotiating table.”

David Straub, a former director of Korean affairs at the State Department and a senior fellow at the Sejong Institute, a think tank near Seoul, warned of “serious policy differences between the U.S. and South Korean presidents” over North Korea and related issues. He added that these differences could lead to “significantly increased popular dissatisfaction with the United States in South Korea.”

China, on the other hand, is likely to welcome Mr. Moon’s election, which may make it easier for it to deflect pressure from the United States to get tough on North Korea and strengthen its argument that Washington must address the North’s concerns about security.

Some analysts say Mr. Moon’s victory could lower the temperature of the North Korean standoff, prompting Washington and Pyongyang to pause and assess the effect of the new government in Seoul on their policies. Satellite images indicate that the North has been preparing to conduct a sixth nuclear test, and the Trump administration has engaged in a heated campaign of implied threats and military posturing to stop it.

Mr. Moon’s view of North Korea echoes the approach of the two liberal presidents who held power from 1998 to 2008 and pursued a so-called sunshine policy toward the North that included diplomatic talks, family reunions and joint economic projects, such as the Kaesong industrial park in North Korea, near the demilitarized zone.

Mr. Moon carrying a portrait of former President Roh Moo-hyun to a memorial altar at Mr. Roh’s hometown, Bonghwa, in 2009. Mr. Roh completed his five-year term in 2008 and committed suicide the next year. CreditReuters

But that era was punctuated by the North’s first nuclear test, conducted in 2006, and much has changed on the Korean Peninsula since.

With four more tests under its belt, each more powerful than the last, and a rapidly advancing ballistic missile program, North Korea poses a greater threat to the South and appears to be closing in on nuclear arms capable of striking the United States. Mr. Moon also faces a mercurial adversary in Mr. Kim, 33, who took power in Pyongyang after the death of his father in late 2011.

Critics say any effort by Mr. Moon to revive the sunshine policy — perhaps by reopening Kaesong, which his disgraced predecessor, Park Geun-hye, shut last year — would give North Korea a lifeline it could use to reduce its economic dependence on China, weakening Beijing’s leverage over it and strengthening Mr. Kim’s hand.

The American missile defense system, known as Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or Thaad, presents another test for Mr. Moon. It went into operation last week, and Mr. Moon has complained that its deployment was rushed to present him with a fait accompli. But if he tries to undo it, he could strain the alliance with Washington while leaving the impression of bowing to Chinese pressure.

That could be politically fatal in South Korea, where the public, across the political spectrum, is wary of the country appearing too deferential to big powers. Many South Koreans complained that the United States had foisted Thaad on their nation, but they also fumed about retaliatory economic measures taken by China in response to its deployment.

Supporters of Mr. Moon during a campaign rally in Seoul on Monday. CreditKim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

Acknowledging the complexity of the challenges he faces, Mr. Moon has been careful to say that when he promised to review the Thaad deployment, he did not necessarily mean he would reverse it.

And while he has said South Korea must “learn to say no” to Washington, he has emphasized that any diplomatic overture toward North Korea will be grounded in the South’s alliance with the United States. He has also often expressed gratitude to the United States for protecting the South from Communism and supporting its transformation into a prosperous democracy.

Mr. Moon’s parents fled Communist rule during the Korean War and were among tens of thousands evacuated from the North Korean port of Hungnam by retreating American Navy vessels in the winter of 1950. They often told him about the Christmas sweets that American troops handed out to those packed into the ships during the journey.

Mr. Moon was born in January 1953, after his parents had resettled in a refugee camp on an island off the southern coast of South Korea. His father was a handyman, and his mother peddled eggs, coal briquettes and black-market American relief goods.

Asked by the newspaper Dong-A Ilbo what he would do with a crystal ball, Mr. Moon said last month that he would show his 90-year-old mother what her North Korean hometown looked like now and how her relatives there were faring. “If Korea reunifies, the first thing I would do is to take my mother’s hand and visit her hometown,” he said. “Perhaps I could retire there as a lawyer.”

In the 1980s, Mr. Moon defended student and labor activists persecuted under military rule and forged a lifelong friendship with a fellow lawyer, Roh Moo-hyun. When Mr. Roh was elected president in 2002, declaring that he would be the first South Korean president not to “kowtow to the Americans,” Mr. Moon served as his chief of staff.

Many of the misgivings that conservatives have about Mr. Moon stem from his association with Mr. Roh. But some former American officials who dealt with the Roh government recall Mr. Moon as more practical and flexible than other officials. In his memoir, Mr. Moon defended Mr. Roh’s decision to sign a trade agreement with the United States and dispatch troops to Iraq over the protests of Mr. Roh’s liberal political base.

Mr. Roh completed his five-year term in 2008 and committed suicide the next year as prosecutors investigated corruption allegations against his family.

“It was the most painful day in my life,” Mr. Moon wrote in his memoir, describing his friend’s death as “tantamount to a political murder” and blaming a political vendetta by a new conservative government that wanted to discredit him.

Mr. Moon entered the 2012 presidential race vowing to finish Mr. Roh’s work by fighting corruption, the influence of the country’s family-owned conglomerates, and what he called “politically motivated prosecutors” — and by seeking peace with North Korea.

But he narrowly lost to Ms. Park, the daughter of the South Korean military strongman Park Chung-hee, and spent the next four years as a leader of the opposition.

In a recent interview, Mr. Moon recalled how he visited Mr. Roh’s predecessor, Kim Dae-jung, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and architect of the sunshine policy, shortly before Mr. Kim died in 2009.

Mr. Kim was so feeble by then that he had to be fed by his wife, and he was heartbroken. He had devoted much of his career to building trust with North Korea through humanitarian and economic aid, and the conservatives in power were dismantling that legacy and embracing sanctions against the North.

“President Kim said he could not believe his eyes,” Mr. Moon recalled. “In what I thought was his dying wish, he asked us to take the government back.”

US missile defense system now operational in S.Korea

WASHINGTON (AFP) — A controversial missile defense system whose deployment has angered China is now operational in South Korea, a US defense official said Monday.

Washington and Seoul agreed to the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery deployment in July in the wake of a string of North Korean missile tests.

“It has reached initial intercept capability,” the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

This initial capability will be augmented later this year as additional hardware and components arrive to complete the system, officials said.

THAAD’s deployment in South Korea has infuriated China, which fears it will weaken its own ballistic missile capabilities and says it upsets the regional security balance.

The THAAD system, which is being installed on a former golf course in the southern county of Seongju, is designed to intercept and destroy short- and medium-range ballistic missiles during their final phase of flight.

Beijing has imposed a host of measures seen as economic retaliation against the South for the THAAD deployment, including a ban on tour groups.

Retail conglomerate Lotte, which previously owned the golf course, has also been targeted, with 85 of its 99 stores in China shut down, while South Korea’s biggest automaker Hyundai Motor has said its Chinese sales have fallen sharply.

The THAAD deployment comes as tension soars on the Korean peninsula following a series of missile launches by the North and warnings from the administration of US President Donald Trump that military action is an “option on the table.”

Further complicating matters, Trump stunned Seoul last week when he suggested South Korea should pay for the $1 billion THAAD system.

“I informed South Korea it would be appropriate if they paid. It’s a billion-dollar system,” Trump was quoted as saying in a published report.

“It’s phenomenal, shoots missiles right out of the sky.”

Seoul retorted that under the Status of Forces Agreement that governs the US military presence in the country, the South would provide the THAAD site and infrastructure while the US would pay to deploy and operate it.

Thomas Karako, the director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, noted that South Korea’s sole THAAD battery does not quite have the range to cover the entire country.

But he called it an important first step.

“This is not about a having a perfect shield, this is about buying time and thereby contributing to the overall credibility of deterrence,” Karako told AFP.

“South Korea with THAAD helps communicate to the North that today is not a good day to attack. It doesn’t mean that they could not do a lot of damage — they would — but it strengthens the overall posture.”

In a surprise development, Trump on Monday said he would not rule out meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, under the right conditions.

“If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would, absolutely. I would be honored to do it,” Trump told Bloomberg News.

US begins setting up missile defense in S. Korea

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — In a defiant bit of timing, South Korea announced Wednesday that key parts of a contentious US missile defense system had been installed a day after rival North Korea showed off its military power.

The South’s trumpeting of progress on setting up the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, comes as high-powered US military assets converge on the Korean Peninsula and as a combative North Korea signals possible nuclear and missile testing.

North Korea conducted live-fire artillery drills on Tuesday, the 85th anniversary of the founding of its million-person strong Korean People’s Army. On the same day, a US guided-missile submarine docked in South Korea, and the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier is headed toward the peninsula for a joint exercise with South Korea.

The moves to set up THAAD within this year have angered not only North Korea, but also China, the country that the Trump administration hopes to work with to rid the North of nuclear weapons. China, which has grown increasingly frustrated with its ally Pyongyang, and Russia see the system’s powerful radars as a security threat.

South Korea said in a statement Wednesday that unspecified parts of THAAD were installed. The statement said that Seoul and Washington have been pushing to get THAAD quickly working to cope with North Korea’s advancing nuclear and missile threats. According to the Yonhap news agency, the parts include two or three launchers, intercept missiles and at least one radar.

In this photo provided by the South Korean Defense Ministry, a South Korean navy sailor watches the destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer during joint exercises between the United States and South Korea in South Korea's West Sea Tuesday, April 25, 2017. (South Korean Defense Ministry via AP)

About 8,000 police officers were mobilized and the main road leading up to the site in the southeast was blocked earlier Wednesday, Yonhap reported. About 200 residents and protesters rallied in front of a local community center, some hurling plastic water bottles.

On Tuesday, North Korea conducted live-fire drills near the east coast city of Wonsan that involved 300 to 400 artillery pieces, Yonhap reported. An official from Seoul’s Defense Ministry couldn’t confirm those specific details.

North Korea’s official media said early Wednesday that leader Kim Jong Un personally observed the exercises. The drills reportedly included submarine torpedo attacks on mock enemy warships “while fighters and bombers made zero feet flight above the sea to drop bombs on the targets,” the Korean Central News Agency said.

US President Donald Trump has sent more US military assets to the region in a show of force while leaning on China to exert economic pressure on its wayward ally. Chinese President Xi Jinping, who spoke to Trump on Monday, is urging restraint from both Pyongyang and Washington.

In Washington, top Trump administration officials are due to brief the entire US Senate on Wednesday. A rapid tempo of North Korean weapons testing in the past year has pushed Kim Jong Un’s authoritarian nation closer to developing a nuclear-tipped missile that could reach the US mainland.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham voiced confidence that Trump won’t allow North Korea to reach that point. Graham, a defense hawk who dined with Trump on Monday night, said the North should not underestimate the president’s resolve.

In this April 23, 2017 photo released by the US Navy, the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson transits the Philippine Sea while conducting a bilateral exercise with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Z.A. Landers/US Navy via AP)

The USS Michigan, a nuclear-powered submarine, arrived Tuesday at the South Korean port of Busan for what was described as a routine visit to rest crew and load supplies. The US 7th Fleet said two American destroyers were conducting simultaneous maritime exercises with naval ships from South Korea and Japan.

North Korea routinely accuses the United States of readying for an invasion, and threatens pre-emptive strikes to stop it. An unnamed North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said the US administration’s policy to maximize pressure on North Korea was “little short of lighting the fuse of total war,” the state news agency reported Tuesday.

The streets of Pyongyang, however, were quiet for Tuesday’s anniversary, which was overshadowed by April 15 celebrations for the birthday of the nation’s late founder Kim Il Sung, and were marked by a missile test the following day.

The Trump administration is also upping the ante diplomatically.

On Friday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will chair a special meeting of the UN Security Council.

Tillerson will be “very vocal” about nations enforcing sanctions on North Korea, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said. Trump said Monday the council must be prepared to impose stronger sanctions.


Recent tensions between North Korea and the U.S. have escalated to the point where any military action on either side would likely lead to another all-out war on the Korean Peninsula. If it gets to that point, there may be little that North Korea’s Kim Jong Un or President Donald Trump could do to prevent a prolonged conflict.

Intelligence reports earlier this month suggested that North Korea was preparing to conduct its sixth nuclear weapons test April 15, on the birthday of the reclusive, authoritarian state’s late founder and Kim Jong Un’s grandfather, Kim Il Sung. In response, President Donald Trump said he would send a naval “armada” toward the region to prevent such a test. North Korea did not execute a nuclear test, but did conduct a failed missile launch and has pledged to continue firing missiles “weekly” in defiance of Washington’s threats. Neither side has backed down and with a fleet of U.S. warships potentially headed to North Korea, Kim Jong Un may be compelled by his own militarized society to respond should the U.S. take action.

Related: How the U.S., China, Japan and the Koreas are Reacting to the Crisis in Asia

“There is a big question as to whether North Korea can actually respond in a limited fashion. You know, technically they can. But the system and the doctrine might not permit it,” Joseph Bermudez, strategic director at All Source Inc., an intelligence and satellite imagery analysis organization, said during a teleconference call Tuesday.

“And, given the current state of tension on the Korean Peninsula, even if they did respond in a limited manner, the South Koreans, or the U.S., or maybe even the Japanese, might then respond again, and what we see then is a gradual escalation to a second Korean War,” he added.

RTS12E00A soldier salutes atop an armored vehicle as it drives past the stand with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a military parade marking the 105th birth anniversary of country’s founding father, Kim Il Sung, in Pyongyang, April 15, 2017. For decades, North Korea has told its heavily militarized, state-run society that any aggressions against the nation would be answered with force.DAMIR SAGOLJ/REUTERS

Since first battling with its southern rival during the Korean War in the 1950s, North Korea has continually threatened to use the full extent of its arsenal to defend its sovereignty. The country, in which the state wields some degree of control over nearly every aspect of society, has proliferated these claims for over half a century in its various government-run media outlets. While border skirmishes have occurred over the decades, neither South Korea nor any foreign power has directly attacked North Korea. This means Pyongyang has never had to make good on its gravest of promises to annihilate its enemies. The U.S. has also never come through with threats of military intervention. Recent events, however, have shown the current administration’s willingness to use force in a quick and unannounced manner.

Fears of a U.S. preemptive strike on North Korea were heightened because Trump’s declaration of sending warships to the Korean Peninsula came one day after he authorized an unprecedented preemptive missile strike by the U.S. Navy on a Syrian military air base. Trump said the strike was justified by U.S. claims that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad conducted a chemical weapons attack on civilians only days before. Trump had previously shown ambivalence or even tacit support at times for Assad and his sudden desire to enforce international conventions by military force came as a surprise to many.

North Korea has often found itself in flagrant defiance of international law. The country’s former leader and Kim Jong Un’s father, Kim Jong Il, drew widespread condemnation abroad when he oversaw the country’s first nuclear weapons test in 2006. Since then, North Korea has conducted four more nuclear tests despite U.N. Security Council sanctions with another potential test coming up. The nation already has anywhere between 10 to 20 active nuclear warheads and around 1000 ballistic missiles, according to John Schilling, satellite and vehicle launch specialist at the Aerospace Corporation, and could launch devastating assaults on the region if provoked.

“If we look at what the North Koreans say and what their doctrine and training calls for, is that if there is an attack, there is an immediate or close to immediate response,” Bermudez said. “Part of that attack will be an artillery attack on Seoul. How extensive that is, that’s a good question.”

During separate trips to Asia, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Vice President Mike Pence have both recently said military options were “on the table” in dealing with North Korea. At the same time, Trump has approached North Korea’s traditional ally, China, in an attempt to persuade Beijing to take its own actions against North Korea. Beijing has become increasingly frustrated with North Korea’s nuclear saber-rattling, but has also expressed opposition toward the U.S.’ military presence in South Korea. China has responded with general pleas for peace among all parties.

While Trump’s naval strike group was last seen in the Indian Ocean, thousands of miles from North Korea, the leadership of both nations continued to threaten to wage war on another if the crisis was not resolved. Once the first missile is launched, from either side, it seems increasingly unlikely that it will be the last, according to North Korea expert Joel Wit, co-founder of the 38 North monitoring group.

“The problem with thinking about preemptive attacks against North Korea is that you’re rapidly forced to think about attacking more and more targets,” Wit said during Tuesday’s teleconference call. “The bigger your attack the larger the chance that you’re going to create a situation that will lead to the second Korean War.”

South Korea Just Unveiled Missile That Can Hit Communists Anywhere in the North

While madman North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un keeps his neighbors on edge with missile launches and threats to the United States, South Korea has been busy with a missile program of its own.

An anonymous source claimed that South Korea has test-fired a ballistic missile capable of striking anywhere in North Korea, according to the U.K. Express.

A second unnamed source in the South Korean Ministry of National Defense said the missile has a range of 800 kilometers, or 497 miles, the Express reported. The missile’s range therefore brings all of North Korea into striking distance, including up to the northern border with China.

The North Korean capital of Pyongyong is 121 air miles from Seoul.

“There was a test-firing recently of a Hyunmoo-type ballistic missile with a range of 800 km at the Anheung test site of the Agency for Defense Development under the wing of the Defense Ministry,” the source said. “It’s assessed that it was successful.”

Although the Ministry of Defense did not comment publicly, the source said that Defense Minister Han Min-koo personally observed the test launch, according to The Diplomat. The source said this was not the first test of the missile, indicating an advanced stage of development.

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With over 28,000 American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines currently in South Korea at full readiness, South Korea has long been under an umbrella of protection by the U.S.

The goal of the American presence there is and has always been to foster and support South Korean military independence. In 2012, the two countries agreed that South Korea would begin developing missiles with longer range to increase deterrence against the North’s nuclear threat, according to Yonhap News via New Delhi TV.

North Korean defector Thae Yong Ho recently confirmed that Kim is an unpredictable maniac with an obsession for nuclear power, according to NBC News.

“If Kim Jong Un has nuclear weapons and ICBMs, he can do anything. So I think the world should be ready to deal with this kind of person,” Thae said. “Kim Jong Un is a man who can do anything beyond the normal imagination.”

South Korea’s announcement should strike fear into the heart of Kim’s regime. He’s been a bully running loose in the park, terrorizing anyone he sees. This new development is akin to confining him in an elevator with his intended victim, both with guns drawn. No winners.

That’s the point of mutual armament: Played properly, it’s a zero-sum game. The only sure way to lose is not to play.

Perhaps South Korea’s self-defense development will take some of the wind from Kim’s sails, making being the bully on the block slightly less entertaining.