South levies sanctions after North’s missile launches
North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) toward the East Sea on Monday as Kim Yo-jong, the powerful younger sister of the country’s leader Kim Jong-un, warned that Pyongyang could turn the Pacific into a “firing range” depending upon U.S. actions.
Seoul immediately responded to Pyongyang’s latest provocation and its intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch Saturday by levying additional independent sanctions on North Korea.
On Monday morning, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said it detected launches from the Sukchon area in North Korea’s South Pyongan Province at 7 a.m. and 7:11 a.m.
The missiles flew around 390 kilometers and 340 kilometers, according to the JCS.
The JCS said in a statement that the military “will ensure a firm response posture based on security cooperation between South Korea, the United States and Japan” and “maintain a firm readiness posture to respond overwhelmingly to any North Korean provocations.”
The North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported later Monday that its army’s long-range artillery units conducted a multiple-rocket launching drill at 7:00 a.m. that morning.
The latest missile launches followed Seoul and Washington’s “combined air drill with ten-odd war planes” including B-1B strategic bombers and F-35 stealth fighters on Sunday, reported the KCNA, and “demonstrated its full readiness to deter and will to counter the U.S. and south Korean combined air force bragging about their air superiority.”
The KCNA reported that multiple launch rocket firepower subunits of the North Korean People’s Army fired two shots from 600-millimeter multiple rocket launcher that flew 395 kilometers and 337 kilometers towards the East Sea.
The English-language report said the 600-millimeter multiple rocket launcher is its army’s “latest type of multiple launch precision attack weapon system” and “a tactical nuclear attack means boasting of the great might powerful enough to assign only one multiple rocket launcher with four shells so as to destroy an enemy operational airfield.”
The rocket launcher in question has a range of 400 kilometers, putting all South Korean and U.S. airfields on the Korean Peninsula in range.
In another statement carried by the KNCA later Monday, Kim Yo-jong, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s younger sister and deputy director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department of the ruling Workers’ Party, stressed that Pyongyang is “watching the south Korean idiots making a show of themselves.”
Kim said that naysayers of North Korea’s nuclear and missile capabilities “had better rack their brains to take measures to defend themselves, instead of doubting or worrying about other’s technology.”
She claimed that North Korea “possessed satisfactory technology and capability and, now will focus on increasing the quantity of their force.”
Kim then warned that the “frequency of using the Pacific as our firing range depends upon the U.S. forces’ action character” and intends to “make the worst maniacs escalating the tensions pay the price for their action.”
This is Kim’s second statement in two days.
Analysts view Kim’s remarks as reflecting the North’s intention to increase intimidation against the United States, implying that it can aim an ICBM at any time toward the U.S. mainland, as leverage for negotiations.
On Saturday, North Korea launched an ICBM, its first missile test since New Year’s Day. Its last ICBM test was on Nov. 18, when it test-fired the powerful Hwasong-17 missile.
North Korea claimed through state media Sunday that it had conducted a “surprise launching drill” of its Hwasong-15 ICBM, launched at a high angle, from Sunan airport in Pyongyang.
In a tit-for-tat move, Seoul and Washington carried out a joint air exercise involving a U.S. B-1B strategic bomber, U.S. F-16 fighters and South Korean F-35A stealth jets.
The presidential National Security Council (NCS) met Saturday and Monday to discuss responses to the North’s latest missile launches and assess the South Korean military’s readiness.
On Monday, South Korea announced new independent sanctions on four individuals and five institutions involved in North Korea’s nuclear and missile development programs or activities to circumvent sanctions.
Seoul’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the latest missile launches “pose a serious threat to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and the international community.”
The blacklisted individuals included Ri Song-un, a former economic and commercial counselor at the North Korean Embassy in Mongolia, who is accused of involvement in smuggling weapons and luxury goods to North Korea.
Another individual, Vladlen Amtchentsev, is a Russian-born South African national who has helped North Korea illegally buy oil, while Kim Soo-il, a North Korean Defense Ministry representative active in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, is accused of involvement in the export of North Korean minerals.
Designated entities include Songwon Shipping & Management, Korea Daizin Trading Corp., Tonghung Shipping and Trading Co.,Transatlantic Partners Pte. Ltd. and Velmur Management Pte. Ltd.
Transatlantic Partners and Velmur Management are Singapore-based.
The blacklisted individuals and institutions have already been sanctioned by the United States.
Monday’s announced sanctions represent the fastest ever sanctions levied independently by Seoul on Pyongyang, coming just hours after the North’s latest provocation.
On Feb. 10, the South Korean government imposed individual sanctions on North Korea over illicit cyber activities for the first time.
The Yoon Suk Yeol administration has so far announced independent sanctions on North Korea four times, targeting 31 individuals and 35 institutions since October last year.
BY SARAH KIM [email@example.com]