Tensions increase: South Korea simulates attack on North's main nuclear test site

Tensions increase as South Korea simulates an attack on North Korea's main nuclear test site, following the most powerful nuclear attack cast by the North so far

South Korea launches ballistic missiles in simulated attack on North Korea. Source: Guardian Wires
South Korea launches ballistic missiles in simulated attack on North Korea. Source: Guardian Wires
Photo: BBC
Photo: BBC

After warnings from the US to North Korea of a “massive military response”, South Korea’s military have fired missiles into the sea to simulate an attack on the North’s main nuclear test site just one day after Pyonyang detonated its most powerful nuclear test explosion to date.

The most recent advancement occurred on Sunday, in an underground test of what North Korea leader Kim Jong Un’s government claimed was a hydrogen bomb, making this the state’s sixth nuclear test since 2006.

In a series of tweets, US president Donald Trump has threatened to halt trade with all countries currently doing business with North Korea, warned China and faulted South Korea for what he referred to as “talk of appeasement”.

The aim of South Korea’s live-fire exercise was to “strongly warn” Pyongyang as the drill involved F-15 fighter jets and the country’s land-based “Hynmoo” ballistic missiles, which were fired into the sea of Japan.

According to Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, the exercise was aimed at practicing precision strikes and cutting off reinforcements. However, North Korea is thought to have a growing arsenal of nuclear bombs and has spent years attempting to perfect a long-range, multistage missile which would eventually carry out smaller versions of these bombs.

In an attempt to calm the waters, much has been done but to no avail. Both diplomacy as well as severe sanctions have failed to check the North’s march to nuclear mastery but as of yet, no US military action appears imminent. The current immediate focus is on summoning economic penalties.

Defence Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters that the US is not after “total annihilation” of the secretive state, but “we have many options to do so”. Any threat from the North will be answered with a “massive military response -  a response both effective and overwhelming”, said Mattis.

The strength of the North’s underground nuclear explosion is yet to be determined; however, South Korea’s weather agency confirmed that the artificial earthquake caused by the explosion was five to six times stronger than tremors generated by the North’s previous five tests.

North Korea has made great progress in terms of its nuclear and missile program since Kim rose to power following his father’s passing in late 2011. The North followed its two tests of Hwasong-14 ICBMs, which, when perfected, could target large parts of the United States, by threatening to launch a salvo of its Hwasong-12 intermediate range missiles toward the U.S. Pacific island territory of Guam in August.

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