With Seoul expecting another North Korean missile test, South Korean warships conducted live-fire exercises at sea on Tuesday in a second straight day of military swagger from a nation still rattled by the North’s biggest-ever nuclear test.
The test on Sunday, which North Korea said was a hydrogen bomb, was a huge advance in the North’s push for nuclear-tipped missiles capable of hitting the United States. It has also resulted in South Korea boosting its own military capabilities. Washington and Seoul agreed to lift restrictions on South Korean missiles they’d previously agreed upon, according to the South Korean presidential office, allowing Seoul to improve its pre-emptive strike capabilities against the North.
President Donald Trump agreed to allow South Korea, along with Japan, to “buy a substantially increased amount of highly sophisticated military equipment from the United States.”
The Korean Peninsula has been in a technical state of war since the Korean War ended in an armistice in 1953. The near-constant unease has worsened in recent months as North Korea has displayed rapid improvement in its weapons capabilities, testing intercontinental ballistic missiles and a string of other missiles meant to target U.S. forces in Asia and the U.S. mainland.
More launches may be coming. The Defense Ministry said Monday that North Korea appeared to be planning a future missile launch, possibly of an ICBM, to show off its claimed ability to target the United States with nuclear weapons. It was unclear when such a launch might happen, but Sept. 9 is the anniversary of North Korea’s founding and past launches have coincided with important national dates.
South Korean ships including a 2,500-ton frigate, a 1,000-ton patrol ship and 400-ton guided-missile vessels participated in the drills aimed at retaliating against potential North Korean provocations, the Defense Ministry said. It plans more naval drills in its southern seas through Saturday. On Monday, Seoul used F-15 fighter jets and land-based ballistic missiles to simulate an attack on North Korea’s nuclear test site to “strongly warn” the North over the recent detonation.
The U.N. Security Council held its second emergency meeting about North Korea in a week on Monday, with…