In a stark warning to North Korea after its successful test of a long-range missile, the top U.S. military commander in South Korea insinuated Wednesday that Seoul and Washington were willing to go to war if provoked.
The unusually blunt statement by Gen. Vincent Brooks, released after the U.S. and South Korean militaries fired off a volley of missiles earlier in the day simulating a precision strike against the North Korean leadership, came after Pyongyang’s launch Tuesday of the Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile.
That missile, which traveled more than 900 km on a “lofted” trajectory before splashing down in the Sea of Japan, hit an altitude of more than 2,800 km, demonstrating that could travel much farther if launched normally.
“Self restraint, which is a choice, is all that separates armistice and war,” Brooks said. “As this alliance missile live fire shows, we are able to change our choice when so ordered by our alliance national leaders.
“It would be a grave mistake for anyone to believe anything to the contrary.”
South Korea hosts 28,500 U.S. troops as part of the two countries’ security alliance. North and South Korea are technically still at war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice and not a formal peace treaty.
The joint live-fire ballistic missile drills, which involved the South’s Hyunmoo-2A and the U.S. Army’s ATACMS, was organized at the suggestion of South Korean President Moon Jae-in after the North’s ICBM announcement, the presidential Blue House said. U.S. President Donald Trump OK’d the plan in an emergency meeting between the two leaders’ national security advisers.
Also Wednesday, South Korea’s military made public footage of several high-profile missiles in its arsenal that could be used in “decapitation” operations aimed at eliminating the North Korean leadership.
One of the weapons in the video clip released by the country’s Joint Chiefs of Staff was a Taurus KEPD 350 long-range precision-guided missile, which is designed for highly accurate strikes against bunkers and other deeply buried targets.
In an unusual twist reminiscent of the North’s own propaganda videos, the clip also featured an animated section depicting an apparent strike on Pyongyang — including government buildings reduced to rubble and burning national flags.
The provocative video and the tough language by the top commander of U.S. forces in the South are likely to infuriate Pyongyang, which claims it needs nuclear weapons to defend itself against the threat of U.S. invasion.