South Korea’s Defense Chief Issues Stark Warning to North Korea Over ICBM Launches

SEOUL - South Korea's defense chief issued a stark warning to North Korea on Monday, cautioning against further intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launches. The defense minister, Shin Won-sik, indicated that Seoul, in collaboration with Washington, might deploy additional strategic assets or conduct "decapitation" drills targeting the North Korean leadership in response to these provocations.

According to Yonhap News Agency, Shin Won-sik elaborated on the potential measures being considered by South Korea and the United States. These measures include the deployment of more U.S. strategic assets in the region and drills aimed at the North Korean leadership, should North Korea persist with its missile tests.

This warning followed North Korea's launch of an ICBM into the East Sea earlier in the day, marking the fifth such launch this year and setting a new annual record. Additionally, Pyongyang had fired a short-range missile from its capital just a day before.

Shin disclosed that South Korean and U.S. special forces are currently engaged in combined aerial maneuvers and facilities raid training. He also mentioned ongoing talks for the deployment of U.S. strategic assets within the next few days. This deployment might coincide with joint South Korea-U.S. drills and a trilateral exercise involving Japan.

The defense minister provided an analysis of the latest ICBM launch, identifying the missile as a Hwasong-18 solid-fuel ICBM, similar to those fired by North Korea in April and July. He noted the missile's three-stage rocket design, distinct from the two-stage rockets of the North's Hwasong-15 and 17 liquid-fuel ICBMs. Although the launch appeared successful, Shin suggested that North Korea has not yet perfected atmospheric reentry technology for the missile's warhead.

The South's Joint Chiefs of Staff reported that the missile traveled approximately 1,000 kilometers in a lofted trajectory before landing in the East Sea. Shin interpreted this launch as a precursor to the ninth plenary meeting of the eighth Central Committee of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party, aimed at demonstrating progress in strategic weapons development.

Shin also revealed upcoming plans for South Korea, the United States, and Japan to announce a system for real-time sharing of North Korean missile warning data within the next 24 hours. This system marks a significant advancement from previous methods, which only involved maritime detection.

The initiative for this data-sharing system was reaffirmed by South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, U.S. President Joe Biden, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in a joint statement at their Camp David summit in August, with an operational deadline set for the end of this year.

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