By Kanga Kong
South Korea and U.S. officials vowed “strong punitive steps” against Kim Jong Un’s regime if it continued provocations after North Korea appeared to conduct a failed missile test on Wednesday.
Meeting in Seoul, Kim Hong-Kyun, South Korea’s special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, and his U.S. counterpart Joseph Yun reaffirmed a commitment to push Kim harder to drop its push for nuclear weapons. Recent provocations are probably a prelude to the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, according to a South Korean Foreign Ministry statement.
The South Korean Defense Ministry earlier said that North Korea appeared to have fired an unidentified missile from its Wonsan airbase in the east. If confirmed, it would be the third round of missile tests by North Korea this year, as it seeks to develop the capability to deliver a nuclear weapon to the U.S. in defiance of United Nations sanctions.
South Korea’s Kim and the U.S.’s Yun agreed that all countries including China must strictly implement U.N. sanctions against North Korea, according to the Foreign Ministry. They said that it’s important to cut off sources of the regime’s foreign-currency income and limit the activity of its people working abroad to further isolate it diplomatically and economically.
Kim, who has launched a series of projectiles and conducted three nuclear tests since he came to power more than five years ago, claimed in January to be in the final stage of preparations to test-fire an ICBM. North Korea fired four missiles this month that reached as far as Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
The Trump administration has taken a harder line toward the regime, with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson saying last week that all options, including military, are on the table. On a trip to North Asia, Tillerson said 20 years of diplomatic efforts had failed to counter North Korea’s nuclear program and he didn’t rule out a pre-emptive strike.