SOUTH Korea yesterday threatened an immediate military response to any signs of an attack after North Korea tested a nuclear bomb.
The South also issued an image of a new cruise missile being deployed just two days after the controversial test by its Communist neighbour.
The North conducted its third nuclear detonation on Tuesday, in defiance of United Nations’ resolutions, pushing it further along the path of developing a long-range nuclear missile.
North Korea claimed the test was designed to bolster its defences in the face of American hostility. The United States has led the push for sanctions in response North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s nuclear weapons programme.
North Korea yesterday repeated its warning that any further sanctions would provoke firmer action.
This has ramped up tension with the South, which has already told its border troops they can return fire without first seeking permission from army chiefs.
Yesterday the tit-for-tat escalated with a statement in the South Korean capital Seoul from defence minister Kim Min-seok, unveiling a new cruise missile.
Mr Kim said: “The cruise missile being unveiled today is a precision-guided weapon that can identify and strike the window of the office of North Korea’s leadership.”
Kim Jong-un’s regimes programme of missile and nuclear bomb tests has also disconcerted Japan, which announced yesterday it is reconsidering it pacifist constitution.
“When an intention to attack Japan is evident, the threat is imminent, and there are no other options, Japan is allowed under the law to carry out strikes against enemy targets,” said defence minister Itsunori Onodera.
It is unlikely the United States, which acts as a security guarantor for both its allies, would permit any major escalation in any conflict with North Korea.
Japan and China are engaged in a bitter island dispute that has soured relations between the two and alarmed Washington while Seoul and Tokyo have also clashed verbally over a separate disputed island.
the United States and allies are pushing for new sanctions at the UN Security Council aimed at slowing Norh Korea’s nuclear and long-range missile development. President Barack Obama spoke to Japanese premier Shinzo Abe on Wednesday about North Korea’s nuclear test and reaffirmed US commitments to Japan’s security.
“They pledged to work closely together to seek significant action at the United Nations Security Council and to co-operate on measures aimed at impeding North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes,” the White House said.
Mr Onodera called on the North’s biggest benefactor, China, to join in and strengthen the sanctions.
“I think China is the one that is most concerned about the development ... From now on, it is necessary for us, including China, to seek effective steps, effective economic measures [against North Korea].”
North Korea has repeatedly said it is planning what it terms “stronger measures” against the US and its allies, although it has not specified what those could be.
Its medium-range missiles can hit Japan and South Korea. It also has an estimated 8,000 artillery systems stationed within 62 miles of the heavily militarised border between the two Koreas.
“If the US and its allies challenge the DPRK [Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea] with ‘strong measures’, ‘a financial freeze’ and fresh pressure and ‘sanctions’ over its underground nuclear test, it will react to them with stronger measures for self-defence,” the North’s KCNA news agency said.
Australia calls off embassy tour at last minute
A visit by North Korean diplomats seeking to reopen an embassy was cancelled by the Australian government yesterday in response to the nuclear test.
North Korean officials had been due this weekend to look at possible embassy sites in the Australian capital, Canberra. North Korea closed its mission in 2008 due to high costs.Australian foreign minister Bob Carr told a parliamentary committee in Canberra: “We postponed the arrival of North Korean diplomats as a gesture following this detonation.”
Australia is one of the few western countries to have diplomatic ties with North Korea. The North opened an embassy in Canberra in May 2002. But Australia, a rotating UN Security Council member, has been strongly critical of the nuclear tests and has helped drive international calls for tougher sanctions.
Mr Carr said Australia still planned to let North Korea re-establish an embassy in the capital.
“We still adhere to the view that there’s value in having a North Korean diplomatic presence here,” he said.
Show of strength in Pyongyang but satellite images reveal Iranian influence
North Korea orchestrated a public demonstration of support for its nuclear tests yesterday, with tens of thousands of people gathering in the capital, Pyongyang, in a show of support yesterday.
Workers’ Party Secretary Kim Ki-nam told the crowd that Tuesday’s nuclear test, the country’s third, was a self-defensive measure against American hostility.
Meanwhile, a US research institute said North Korea was upgrading one of its two major missile launch sites, apparently to handle much bigger rockets.
Design features of a new launchpad under construction at the north-eastern site of Tonghae also suggest Iran may be helping North Korea. The website of the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, published its assessment yesterday based on commercial satellite images, the latest taken last month.
It said design features, including a flame-trench covering that protects large rockets from the exhaust gases they emit on take-off, is similar to one at a launch complex in Semnan, Iran.
The analysis also identifies activity at an older launchpad at Tonghae, last used for a long-range rocket in 2009, but said it was unclear if preparations for another launch were under way. The North’s most recent long-range launches – a failed bid to put a satellite into space on an Unha-2 rocket in April, then a successful effort in December – were conducted at a newer site, Sohae, on the west coast.