North Korea conducted a test launch of three short range ballistic missiles on Saturday, as U.S. and South Korean forces continue to conduct military exercises near their border that American officials claim are defensive in nature. All three of the missiles were said to fail.
Ulchi Freedom Guardian 2017 is the latest iteration of an annual exercise in which American and South Korean military units take part in simulated defensive operations intended to better prepare them for the possibility of a North Korean invasion. Kim Jong Un’s North Korean regime, however, has repeatedly stated that the drills are actually a rehearsal for their own invasion of his reclusive nation. The exercises commenced on Monday and are scheduled to continue for 10 days.
U.S. Pacific Command announced on Saturday that they had tracked the three ballistic missiles launched from the Kangwon province of North Korea, and were quickly able to assess that they posed no threat to the U.S. mainland or Guam – both targets Kim Jong Un has mentioned publicly on multiple occasions in recent months. Plans to launch four long-range ballistic missiles toward Guam were announced by the North Korean government weeks ago, but Kim has apparently opted to hold back on that provocation, as it could easily lead to actual war, rather than continued posturing. The short-range missiles he chose to launch instead bore little threat of being mistaken for the one ICBM platform North Korea has that could cover the expansive distance between the isolated nation and Guam.
The launches took place between 11:49 and 12:19PM Hawaii time. The first and third of the three missile volley reportedly failed mid-flight after covering “approximately 250 kilometers,” the second, which was launched at approximately 12:07PM appeared to blow up almost immediately upon launch, making all three tests complete failures.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) determined the three ballistic missile launches from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America. The U.S. Pacific Command determined the three ballistic missile launches from North Korea did not pose a threat to Guam. We continue to monitor their actions closely.” PACOM said in a statement released on Twitter.
“U.S. Pacific Command stands behind our ironclad commitment to the security of our allies in the Republic of Korea and Japan.” It concluded.
Prior to Ulchi Freedom Guardian 2017 beginning this week, Kim’s regime released a statement via North Korea’s state-owned KCNA warning the U.S. that the exercises were risking an “uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war.” It went on to state that it could strike the U.S. in retaliation at “any time,” noting that Guam, Hawaii and the U.S. Mainland would not be able to avoid the “merciless strike.”
“The Korean People’s Army is keeping a high alert, fully ready to contain the enemies. It will take resolute steps the moment even a slight sign of the preventive war is spotted,” Another statement in the North Korean state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun said.
The South Korean joint chiefs of staff convened hours after the launches, and issued a statement supporting PACOM and NORAD’s analysis of the tests.
“Our military is closely monitoring for North Korean additional provocation and strengthened surveillance and security postures and maintaining readiness postures,” the South Korean release said.
Image courtesy of North Korea’s KCNA