|South Korea's Hyunmoo-2A ballistic missile, left, and the U.S. Army's MGM-140 Tactical Missile are fired into the East Sea from an undisclosed location on South Korea's east coast during a joint missile drill, Wednesday, aimed to counter North Korea's intercontinental ballistic missile test conducted Tuesday. / Yonhap|
Moon orders missile drills targeting NK leadership
By Jun Ji-hye
South Korea and the United States fired ballistic missiles in a joint drill aimed at striking the North Korean leadership, Wednesday.
The live-fire exercise was an armed reaction to the North's purported successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) conducted Tuesday.
President Moon Jae-in issued the missile firing order after getting consent from U.S. President Donald Trump, Cheong Wa Dae said.
This marked the first time for the allies to conduct a ballistic missile drill in response to the North's missile threats, Defense Minister Han Min-koo said in a National Assembly session.
Issuing the order, Moon said the allies needed to demonstrate their joint defense posture "with action not just words," according to chief press secretary, Yoon Young-chan.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said Seoul and Washington fired their Hyunmoo-2A and the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) ballistic missiles, respectively, into the East Sea at 7 a.m.
Both the Hyunmoo-2A and ATACMS are surface-to-surface missiles with a range of 300 kilometers.
Trump backed Moon's order, saying he respects Moon's willingness to deter the North's provocation with action, Yoon said.
After the missile launches, President Moon left for Germany to attend the G20 summit, where he will ask neighboring countries including China to join hands to curb the North's nuclear and missile threats.
Before boarding his plane at Seoul Airport in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, Moon told aides he was very concerned about leaving the country in this situation, according to Cheong Wa Dae officials.
The JCS said, "The Republic of Korea armed forces and the Eighth U.S. Army fired a salvo of missiles, showing their ability to strike the enemy leadership with pinpoint precision in the event of war."
It added that the drill, which took place after the North's ICBM test, showed the allies' firm determination not to accept any kind of provocation.
The Eighth U.S. Army also said, "The deep strike precision capability enables the ROK-U.S. alliance to engage the full array of time critical targets under all weather conditions."
"The U.S. commitment to the defense of the ROK in the face of threats is ironclad," it added.
JCS Chairman Gen. Lee Sun-jin and ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command Commander Gen. Vincent K. Brooks also made a combined statement, sending a strong warning message to the Kim Jong-un regime.
Military experts pointed out that the ROK armed forces and the U.S. troops stationed on the peninsula would have no means of shooting down a North Korean ICBM heading to the United States. They added that it would be most effective for them to carry out a preemptive strike against the North's key facilities and leadership when signs of imminent launch are detected.
On Tuesday, the North announced that it had successfully launched an ICBM capable of striking the continental United States, saying the missile made a "39 minute flight along its pre-set trajectory before accurately hitting the target waters in the open sea in the East Sea."
The North also said, "The rocket was boosted to a maximum height of 2,802 kilometers and traveled a distance of 933 kilometers."
Experts estimated that the missile would have been able to fly about 7,000 to 8,000 kilometers if it had been launched on a standard trajectory.