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USFK chief blasts N.K. missile launches

PANMUNJEOM ― U.S. Forces Korea Commander Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti on Sunday lambasted North Korea for recently launching a series of missiles and rockets in breach of the U.N. Security Council resolutions banning any ballistic missile tests.

His remarks came the day after the communist state fired what appeared to be a short-range Scud ballistic missile into the East Sea from Jangsangot, South Hwanghae Province, 100 kilometers from the Military Demarcation Line.

“Clearly, we are watching closely the development of their missiles as well as their nuclear capabilities,” the commander told reporters after a ceremony at the truce village to mark the 61st anniversary of the signing of the Armistice Agreement that halted the 1950-53 Korean War.

“Their continued opposition and defiance of the U.N. Security Council resolutions, as well as the international community norms ― it is not acceptable and further isolates them from the international community and further deprives their people of any hope of prosperity in the future.”
USFK commnader Curtis Scaparrotti (Yonhap)
USFK commnader Curtis Scaparrotti (Yonhap)

Pointing out that Pyongyang fired missiles and rockets without designating a no-fly and no-sail zone, the commander stressed that its provocative move endangered the safety of innocent people at sea and in the air.

The reclusive state fired a missile with a range of some 500 km at around 9:40 p.m. on Saturday. Given its range, Seoul officials presumed that the missile was either a Scud-C missile or an upgraded version of it.

The North has Scud-B missiles with a range of 300 km, Scud-C missiles with a range of 500 km, Scud-D missiles with a range of more than 700 km, and the Scud-ER, an upgraded version of Scud-D missiles.

About two weeks ago, the North fired two ballistic missiles into the East Sea from north of Gaeseong. Seoul believes that the North fired those missiles late at night or early in the morning from various locations to show off its ability to mount missile attacks at any time from any place.

Seoul and Washington have so far denounced Pyongyang for violating the UNSC resolutions by firing the missiles. In response, the North argued that the missile launches were its “legitimate exercise of a sovereign right” to strengthen self-defense capabilities.

Speaking of the missile launch, an official of Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said that the North apparently employed its typical two-pronged strategy: a show of military clout and peace efforts at the same time. The North has made a series of saber-rattling moves while seeking to join the Asian Games to be held in Incheon from Sept. 19 to Oct. 4.

Meanwhile, during the news conference at Panmunjeom, Gen. Scaparrotti said that Seoul and Washington are in consultation over the future location of the Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command. The U.S. has recently expressed its wish to station the CFC in Seoul instead of moving it to Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, in line with the overall USFK base relocation plan.

“As we work through negotiations on the OPCON (wartime operational control) transition and the delay, our governments are working together on what’s the best posture for all of our command and control here and in the ROK (Republic of Korea)-U.S. alliance,” he said.

“So that is under consideration, but again both nations work hard at this, and simply my intent is to come up with the best posture for the security of this country.”

By Song Sang-ho, Joint Press Corps