White House Official Confirms Discussions on S. Korean Missile Defense

The latest missile test by North Korea was of "a new-type ground-to-sea cruise rocket", the nuclear-armed country's state media said Friday.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Thursday that North Korea "should immediately halt its nuclear and missile provocations", following a test launch of suspected anti-ship missiles earlier in the day.

The launch comes one day after Moon's government suspended the deployment of the United States missile defense system, known as THADD which had strained relations with China and angered North Korea.

The head of the US military's missile defense program, Vice Adm. James Syring said before Congress Wednesday that the technological advances demonstrated by North Korea in its ballistic missile program in the past six months had caused him "great concern".

Leader Kim Jong-un has spoken of his aim to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the mainland United States with a nuclear weapon.

U.S. President Donald Trump, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson discussed the Korean situation, including THAAD, at the White House on Thursday, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told a news briefing.

"North Korea fired several unidentified projectiles, assumed to be surface-to-ship cruise missiles, this morning in the direction of the East Sea from the vicinity of Wonsan, Gangwon Province", the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said, according to a report from South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

It uses radar along with a series of rockets created to intercept incoming missiles, like ones potentially coming from North Korea.

The move was immediately condemned by South Korea's president, who warned North Korea that the only thing the country has to gain from unauthorized launches is "isolation and economic difficulties".

China has opposed the THAAD missile deployment on the Korean Peninsula.

North Korea's military just completed testing on what it claims is a precision-guided munition (PGM).

Compared to the different types of ballistic missiles Pyongyang has recently tested, the missiles launched on Thursday are considered to be more defensive in nature, created to defend against threats such as enemy warships.

The aim of the missile test, the statement said, was to confirm the functionality of the rocket and the caterpillar pad vehicle carrying it, as well as the weapon system combat application.

In what will likely become another source of animosities, Moon's government said it will let two of the four North Korean fishermen recently rescued at sea resettle in the South in accordance with their wishes.

The first THAAD batteries were installed in late April-less than two weeks before South Korea's presidential election.

"These missiles only went 200 km, and their payload is probably maybe about 250 kg max", said Shea Cotton, a researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation in California, adding that this was only an estimate while awaiting further data.

The launches Thursday were North Korea's fourth missile test since Moon's inauguration on May 10. On Monday, North Korea rejected a Seoul civic right group's offer to provide anti-malaria supplies. The test may have been meant to send a threatening message to the United States, which has two carrier strike groups in the waters between the Korean peninsula and Japan, with a third carrier group now being sent to the region.

  • Leroy Wright