March 08, 2017 11:54
North Korea on Tuesday claimed it was practicing to hit U.S. military bases in Japan when it launched four missiles on Monday. The bases would be the main staging points of massive American troop concentrations from the mainland in a war on the Korean Peninsula.
The North added that it launched four missiles to show off its ability to strike multiple targets.
The official [North] Korean Central News Agency said the launch was "tasked to strike the bases of the U.S. imperialist aggressor forces in Japan" in contingency. "If the United States or South Korea fires even a single flame inside North Korean territory, we will demolish the origin of the invasion and provocation with a nuclear-tipped missile."
It is unprecedented for the North to mention such a specific target. Leader Kim Jong-un "presided over Monday's launch of the four missiles, feasting his eyes on the trails of ballistic rockets," KCNA said.
The North did not reveal what types of missiles it launched, but South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff say they were Scud ER variants with an extended range. The Scud ER has a range of around 1,000 km, which puts a large number of U.S. military installations in Japan within striking distance.
The North is training its sights on the bases because seven of them have been designated as rear-echelon bases for UN forces in the event of a war on the Korean Peninsula.
Yokosuka Naval Base, for instance, is home to the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet, which houses aircraft carriers, Aegis destroyers and nuclear-powered submarines.
The U.S.' Marine Corps' air station in Iwakuni is home to F-35B vertical takeoff and landing fighter planes, and Sasebo Naval Base houses amphibious landing crafts and millions of tons of ammunition.
North Korea hopes to immobilize the bases in the event of a war. The National Intelligence Service here said the aim of the launch seems to be to demonstrate the futility of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense battery being stationed here and draw the U.S. back to the negotiating table.
The missiles were launched from rice paddies instead of roads, perhaps to show that they are becoming more flexible. Asked why the North chose to launch Scuds rather than the Rodong missile, which has a range of 1,300 km, a military source said the Scud ER is so accurate that it can land within a 50 to 190 m radius of its intended target, compared to 1 to 3 km for the Rodong.
Meanwhile, KCNA reported that Kim Rak-gyom, commander of the North's Strategic Rocket Forces, also watched the missile launches at the site. It was the first time in six months that he was seen in public.
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