Duterte: PH helpless; ‘If your time is up, your time is up’
SEOUL: North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan and into the Pacific Friday, responding to new UN sanctions with what appeared to be its furthest-ever missile flight amid high tensions over its weapons programs.
The launch, from near Pyongyang, came after the United Nations Security Council imposed an eighth set of measures on the isolated country following its sixth nuclear test earlier this month.
It was by far its largest to date and Pyongyang said it was a hydrogen bomb small enough to fit onto a missile.
In New York, the UN Security Council called an emergency meeting for later Friday.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg Friday called for a “global response” to North Korea’s latest missile launch, calling it “a reckless breach of UN resolutions.”
China condemned Pyongyang’s action and appealed for restraint to avoid inflaming tensions in the region.
“The Chinese side opposes [North Korea’s] violation of the resolution of the (UN) Security Council, and its use of ballistic missile technology for launch activities,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular news briefing.
In Manila, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, quoting President Rodrigo Duterte, conceded that the Philippines was helpless in case of North Korea attacked, saying there was no more time to build air raid shelters underground.
“What they (North Koreans) did was a very dangerous act. For one, their technology is not accurate. They might be aiming for some other, but it will drop into another country like the Philippines. Indeed, it is very concerning. It could be 10 times more powerful that the atomic bomb dropped in Hiroshima [and Nagasaki during World War 2],” Lorenzana told reporters in the Presidential Palace.
“Now, I’m going to tell you what the President said. ‘What can we do,’ he said. We can’t shoot the missiles to prevent it from landing here. He said, ‘Just stick with what you’re doing regularly. Kung oras mo na, oras mo na (If your time is up, your time is up),’” Lorenzana added.
“We’ll just pray and hope that the missile will drop somewhere there in Pacific Ocean. We hope that the Americans can stop the missile that would hit us.”
Not a threat
The US Pacific Command confirmed Friday’s rocket was an intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM) and said it did not pose a threat to North America or to the US Pacific territory of Guam, which Pyongyang has threatened to bracket with “enveloping fire.”
But Japan’s defense minister said Friday he believed North Korea “has Guam in mind” after its most recent missile launch, noting it had sufficient range to hit the US territory.
Seoul’s defense ministry said it probably traveled around 3,700 kilometers and reached a maximum altitude of 770 kilometers.
It was “the furthest overground any of their ballistic missiles has ever traveled,” Joseph Dempsey of the International Institute for Strategic Studies said on Twitter.
Physicist David Wright, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, added: “North Korea demonstrated that it could reach Guam with this missile, although the payload the missile was carrying is not known” and its accuracy was in doubt.
The North has raised global tensions with its rapid progress in weapons technology under leader Kim Jong-Un, who is closely associated with the program and regularly pictured by state media overseeing launches and visiting facilities.
The North’s last missile launch, a Hwasong-12 IRBM just over two weeks ago, also overflew Japan’s main islands and was the first to do so for years.
But when Pyongyang tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles in July that appeared to bring much of the US mainland into range, it fired them on lofted trajectories that avoided passing over the archipelago nation.
“The North is sending a message which is, ‘we are not cowering before any sanctions and our warnings are not empty threats,’” Yang Moo-Jin of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul told AFP.
“It has vowed the US would face ‘pain and suffering’ in retaliation for the UN sanctions.”
Millions of Japanese were jolted awake by blaring sirens and emergency text message alerts after the missile was fired.
“Missile launch! missile launch! A missile appears to have been launched from North Korea,” loudspeakers blared on Cape Erimo, on Hokkaido’s southern tip.
Breakfast television programs, which usually broadcast a light-hearted diet of children’s shows and gadget features, instead flashed up the warning: “Flee into a building or a basement.”
LLANESCA T. PANTI