'N. Korea now has capacity to target heart of US Pacific Command'
South Korean and US forces fired missiles into the Sea of Japan in a display of resolve toward North Korea as a part of a joint ballistic missile exercise between Washington and Seoul.
According to officials, the exercise used missiles that can be "easily deployed".
It all came in response to North Korea's latest missile test on Tuesday, which the Pentagon said was an intercontinental ballistic missile.
RT: North Korea is clearly aware the US and South Korea possess a wide range of missiles. Was this show of force really necessary?
Hyun Lee: North Korea has been saying from the beginning of this year, from the beginning of the Trump administration, that it will test launch an intercontinental ballistic missile and it has always said it is a form of deterrence against US threats against North Korea. The US and South Korea conduct annual military exercises, including the collapse of the North Korean regime and the simulation of the decapitation of the North Korean leadership. North Korea has always said these are threats to its sovereignty and that is why it is developing an ICBM as a form of deterrence.
RT: China and Russia have been calling on the international community to try and talk to North Korea to avoid provocation. Why did the US and South Korea decide to stage these exercises anyway?
HL: I think what the US and South Korea are doing is basically flexing their muscles to show ‘We are not afraid of North Korea. We also have big bad weapons.’ But what they are doing is answering fire with fire in a region that is a powder keg. We know that the world’s greatest military powers face off in this region: that is the US, China, Japan, South Korea. Former US army generals have warned that even the slightest miscalculation on the Korean peninsula can trigger a conflict that basically mires the entire region in a protracted war that could have catastrophic consequences not only for the region but also for the global economy. And that is not in anyone’s interest.
RT: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said North Korea launching an intercontinental ballistic missile is a new escalation of the threat against the US. Is Pyongyang's new launch a game changer?
HL: Yes, but not because it will attack the US; Washington doesn’t truly believe that. But more because this changes the US strategic calculus in the region. North Korea now has the capacity to target the heart of the US Pacific Command, which is located in Hawaii, as well as the West Coast of the US continent. This means US policy of basically intimidating countries through military might and collapsing uncooperative regimes as it has done in the Middle East for decades: this is not going to work vis-à-vis North Korea.
And if this encourages other countries around the world to follow the example of North Korea, it threatens the nuclear non-proliferation regime, which is essentially intended to ensure that only the prominent five countries of the UN Security Council, and its allies, like Israel, can have nuclear weapons and no one else. North Korea is obviously not a party to the NPT; it is not a US ally but now appears to have the capability to threaten a nuclear attack on the US. This is why this missile test is a big deal and it makes Washington very nervous. If the US wants North Korea to stop, then the path is very clear – it has to stop its provocations and its military exercises and then resolve the conflict fundamentally by signing a peace treaty to end the ongoing state of war between the US and North Korea.
If you are the Pentagon, and you are Donald Trump, you are not about to pass up on the opportunity to fire off a few of the guns and show the people what they are spending their money on. The North Korea thing is filled with a lot of theatrics... What Russia and China basically said is that North Korea has to stop its nuclear program, and the US and South Korea have to stop their war games, and we have to sit down and begin the negotiations. - Jim W. Dean, managing editor at Veterans Today
RT: Is there an end to this vicious circle where opposite sides just fire missiles trying to up the ante on each other?
HL: I think there is a clear path: North Korea, we should note, has repeatedly offered to freeze its own nuclear and missile program in exchange for a freeze of US provocation, including the very provocative military exercises. I think the most sensible path at this point is for the US to end the Korean War, sign a peace treaty with North Korea, finally withdraw its troops from the Korean peninsula. That is the only way to put the nuclear crisis to rest. Washington knows that this is the answer. The only thing that is standing in the way is, not surprisingly, the interest of the military-industrial complex, which feeds off of perpetual war.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.