The South Korean military says the North appears to be getting ready for another missile launch, possibly an Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test, a day after Pyongyang sent shockwaves across the world by detonating a hydrogen bomb, which is said to be the most powerful weapon it has ever tested.
“We have continued to see signs of possibly more ballistic missile launches. We also forecast North Korea could fire an intercontinental ballistic missile,” said Chang Kyung-soo, a Defense Ministry official, on Monday.
Seoul’s defense officials told a parliamentary briefing that Pyongyang’s nuclear test a day earlier had an estimated strength of 50 kilotons, making it five times the size of its previous test in September 2016.
The bomb was also some three times more powerful than the US device that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945.
Earlier in the day, the South conducted a live-fire ballistic missile exercise, simulating an attack on the North’s main nuclear site.
The combined drill, which was carried out by the South Korean army and air force, involved the launches of a surface-to-surface missile and a long-range air-to-ground missile, Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
“The training came in response to the North’s sixth nuclear test… and involved the country’s Hyunmoo ballistic missile and the F-15K fighter jets,” it added.
According to the body, the missiles “accurately struck” targets in the Sea of Japan.
The South’s military also explained that the ranges of the missiles were set in consideration of North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site, which is located in the country’s North Hamgyong Province.
South Korea said it was also preparing fresh military drills with the US.
Seoul and Washington are also set to install more of the THAAD missile systems in response to the nuclear test by North Korea, the South’s Defense Ministry said Monday.
Two launchers of the so-called Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) are already operational, but concerns about their possible environmental had forced Seoul to suspend the installation.
“Four remaining launchers will soon be temporarily deployed through consultations between South Korea and the US to counter growing nuclear and missile threats from the North,” the ministry said in a statement.