US military bases in Japan ‘targeted in missile launch drill’ – N Korean state media
Pyongyang says the missiles it fired toward Japan were part of an exercise targeting US military bases there. It comes as the White House said the deployment of the advanced THAAD anti-missile defense system to South Korea will guard it against the North.
The test launches of four missiles, fired by North Korea into the Sea of Japan on Monday morning, were a drill carried out by an army unit commissioned with attacking US military bases in Japan, the country’s official news agency KCNA said Tuesday.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un personally supervised the drill, it said.
"Involved in the drill were Hwasong artillery units of the KPA Strategic Force tasked to strike the bases of the US imperialist aggressor forces in Japan in contingency," KCNA said. "In the hearts of artillerymen ... there was burning desire to mercilessly retaliate against the warmongers going ahead with their joint war exercises."
The launch was preceded by threats of retaliation to the US-South Korea military drills. Pyongyang views the exercises as a preparation of an attack on North Korea.
Following the launch, Trump pledged full US support to Japan over the issue in a telephone conversation with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday, Abe said after the call.
“President Trump told me that the United States was with Japan 100 percent, and that he wanted his comments to be communicated to the Japanese people," Abe said, as cited by Reuters.
The US president also reportedly asked Japanese people to “trust him as well as the United States 100 percent.”
The UN Security Council will discuss the latest North Korean missile launches at a closed session on Wednesday. The meeting, which is scheduled for 10am, was called by the US, Japan and South Korea.
Meanwhile, the White House said Monday that a THAAD missile defense system will be stationed in South Korea to counter threats from the North.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer described the Monday morning launches as consistent with Pyongyang’s history of “provocative behavior.”
“The Trump administration is taking steps to enhance our ability to defend against North Korea’s ballistic missiles, such as through the deployment of a THAAD battery to South Korea,” Spicer told reporters at a press briefing Monday.
The US has started the deployment of THAAD to South Korea, US Pacific Commander Admiral Harry Harris said in the statement on Tuesday.
The THAAD, or Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, is a missile defense system designed to intercept short-and-medium-range ballistic missiles as they begin their descent to their targets.
Developed by Lockheed Martin, THAAD missiles use infrared seeker technology to locate their targets and detonate on impact. The US has been planning to set up THAAD in South Korea since July 2016, adding to its already existing defensive capabilities in the Asia-Pacific region.
The deployment of the THAAD system in South Korea has been met with strong opposition by China, which views it as undermining its own defense capabilities, as THAAD batteries will help give an early warning to America’s own ballistic missile defense system.
Beijing on Thursday instructed all travel agencies to stop selling tour packages to South Korea, a move which may reportedly take effect countrywide and carry severe economic consequences. China has also imposed sanctions against the Lotte Group, the South Korean conglomerate that forfeited the land on which THAAD will be based.