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N. Korea's ICBM test could add to calls for pre-emptive strike: U.S. expert

All Headlines 07:02 July 05, 2017

By Chang Jae-soon

WASHINGTON, July 4 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's test of what it claims was an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking the United States could add to growing advocacy for a pre-emptive strike on the communist nation, but such an attack is too risky to carry out, a U.S. expert said Tuesday.

After launching a ballistic missile earlier Tuesday, the North claimed it successfully carried out its first ICBM test, with the missile reaching an altitude of about 2,800 kilometers before coming down in the East Sea some 930 km away.

Officials in South Korea and Japan gave similar altitude and distance figures, raising the possibility that the North's claims could be true, though the U.S. Pacific Command initially identified the North's missile as an intermediate-range class.

The U.S. government hasn't issued an official response to the launch yet.

"President Trump had vowed that a North Korean ICBM 'won't happen.' As such, he will face pressure to respond to Pyongyang's defiance," Bruce Klingner, a Heritage Foundation expert on Korea, said, referring to Trump's tweet in January.

"There has been growing advocacy for a pre-emptive military attack to prevent North Korea from completing development of its ICBM. But such an attack risks triggering an all-out war on the Korean Peninsula and catastrophic consequences," he said.

N. Korea's ICBM test could add to calls for pre-emptive strike: U.S. expert - 1

Though South Korean President Moon Jae-in advocates greater engagement with the North but doing so would be out of step with strong international consensus on the need to pressure and punish the regime, Klingner said. Moon will also be constrained by the North's provocations and rejections of his initial attempts to reach out, he said.

Klingner also called for stronger defense and tougher sanctions.

"The U.S. and its allies must take all necessary steps to ensure they have sufficient defenses against the range of North Korean military threats. This includes ballistic missile defense, both tactical defenses, such as deploying THAAD to South Korea, as well as ground-based interceptors in Alaska and Hawaii," Klingner said.

He said he learned from his "Track 1.5" meetings in Sweden with North Korean officials earlier this month that denuclearization is off the table, and there is nothing that either Washington or Seoul could offer to induce the regime to abandon its nuclear arsenal.

"As such, the U.S. should lead the international effort to bring all possible sources of pressure on the regime to enforce U.N. resolutions and U.S. law, constrain the regime's access to foreign technology, impede nuclear and missile proliferation, and hold regime stability at risk," he said.

Victor Cha, Korea chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), said the North's test could give the U.S. a good case to call for ramping up pressure on Pyongyang, especially ahead of a summit of the Group of 20 leading countries.

"I think the test puts Trump in a good position before the G-20 summit to call for maximum pressure on North Korea," Cha said. "The treasury will have more latitude to pursue far-reaching financial sanctions against Chinese banks, entities and individuals."

Cha also said the launch will ensure ramped-up military exercises in August between the U.S. and the South.

Robert Manning, an Atlantic Council expert, also called for stronger sanctions.

"All concerned need to strengthen efforts to disrupt the North Korean network of front companies in China, Malaysia and elsewhere to prevent them from obtaining key components and cut their access to the international financial system," he said.

Manning said, however, that though this weeks' test puts the North closer to ICBM capability, the regime has "not demonstrated they can land a re-entry vehicle, let alone hit a target with a nuke-tipped one." He said the North is still probably 3-4 years away from that.

Military options would be too costly to carry out, he said.

"Unless Trump is willing to risk several hundred thousands dead -- including 30,000 U.S. military and some 80,000 U.S. civilians in greater Seoul, there is no good military options," he said. "We lack precise intelligence on where nukes are, where mobile missiles are and where HEU facilities are, so not enough key targets."

N. Korea's ICBM test could add to calls for pre-emptive strike: U.S. expert - 2

jschang@yna.co.kr
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