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An early provocation

May 15,2017
The new South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his rapprochement policy towards Pyongyang have been put to the test after North Korea fired a ballistic missile early Sunday morning. North Korea blasted off a missile — its seventh test this year — from the northwest city of Kusong that flew 700 kilometers (435 miles) before dropping into the East Sea.

In his fifth day in office, Moon reacted quickly to North Korea’s first provocation after his administration came to power. After being told of the missile launch 22 minutes after it took place by his chief of staff, Moon called in Kim Kwan-jin, chief presidential security adviser, and chaired a National Security Council meeting attended by senior security-related officials of the previous administration, including Defense Minister Han Min-koo, as Moon has yet to form a new cabinet.

The missile reached an altitude of more than 2,000 kilometers and flew for at least a half an hour. Experts believe it could have flown from 4,500 kilometers to 5,500 kilometers if it had been launched at a standard trajectory. An intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) usually has a range of more than 6,000 kilometers, which could reach Hawaii or Alaska. North Korea aims to develop an ICBM that can reach the western coast of America next and ultimately Washington and the eastern coast.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has utterly defied endeavors by the new South Korean government and the international community to seek a diplomatic solution to its weapons program. North Korea is pushing ahead with its agenda to gain international recognition as a nuclear-armed state and bargain directly with Washington by pointing an ICBM carrying a nuclear warhead at it.

Seoul and Washington responded discreetly to further study the repercussions. Beijing took it more personally as the missile was launched on the day President Xi Jinping opened an international conference introducing his Belt and Road Initiative. The Chinese foreign ministry issued a statement condemning the missile test. Xi told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that the two should play a key role to find a solution.

Seoul must cool-headedly assess North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. It must cement ties with the U.S. and other governments to demonstrate a will to stop North Korea’s weapons development.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 15, Page 34