Just yesterday, SOFREP explored the possibility of North Korea taunting the United States with nuclear attacks. Then, hours before pushing the report out, North Korea fired a missile that went over Japan and smashed into the Pacific. Earlier today, South Korea tried to respond by firing their own missile, only to end in frantic alarm and failure.
South Korean military has tried to launch a ballistic missile in a joint drill with the United States in the coastal city of Gangneung, the location of the South Korean Air Force Base. However, the military only confirmed the failure hours after the residents reported explosions around the area. Some residents said they saw bright flashes and heard explosions in the area, and the electricity was cut off. This left many in the dark for hours.
Gangneung’s fire department and city hall emergency workers were also called to the site, but they were sent back by military officials. During the supposed drills, the South Korean military reportedly conducted bombing runs by F-15 strike jets and launched two missiles as part of the Army Tactical Missile System.
The USS Ronald Raegan is also scheduled to return to sea (east of Korea) today to demonstrate the US’ “firm will” to ally with South Korea and to counter North Korea’s provocations.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff confirmed there were no injuries or casualties because of the explosion. The military also noted that the short-ranged Hyunmoo-2 missile crashed inside the air force base. A Joint Chiefs of Staff official told AP that the fire was caused by the burning rocket propellant and not by the missile itself.
The Hyunmoo-2 is a South Korean short-range ballistic missile. It is designed to be launched from a mobile launcher platform and has a maximum range of 200 kilometers. The rocket is equipped with a high-explosive warhead capable of striking targets on land or at sea.
The Hyunmoo-2 missile was first unveiled in 2007 and entered service with the South Korean military in 2009. Since then, it has been regularly test-fired by south Korea, both in exercises and in response to North Korean provocations
In 2016, south Korea announced an upgrade program for the Hyunmoo-2, supposedly improving its accuracy and range. The upgraded missile dubbed the “Hyunmoo-2A,” was tested in 2017.
The Hyunmoo-2 missile is seen as a key part of South Korea’s “kill chain” pre-emptive strike system, which is designed to destroy North Korean missiles and nuclear facilities in the event of war.
South Korea has test-fired the Hyunmoo-2 missile in response to North Korean provocations, such as the launch of long-range ballistic missiles or nuclear tests. Before this failed launch, the most recent test-firing of the Hyunmoo-2 came in august 2017, shortly after North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test. At the time, South Korea’s military said the test was “aimed at sending a firm message to North Korea.”
Kwon Seong-dong, a government representative of Gangneung, wrote on social media saying the explosion was a massive disappointment. Instead of the weapons being used to protect citizens, it has been the leading cause of their alarm.
“…weapons system operated by our blood-like taxpayer money ended up threatening our own people,” Kwon said.
“It was an irresponsible response. They don’t even have an official press release yet.”
However, the military said they needed to do it as a show of strength. But, the military’s non-response within hours of the event left many questioning their intention and planning. What if the missile successfully launched but targeted North Korea directly? What if the missile was sent somewhere else?
This explosion is a frightening glimpse into what could happen if war broke out on the peninsula. If South Korea can’t control its own missiles, how can it be expected to handle an all-out nuclear attack from North Korea? The world is watching and waiting to see how this unfolds.
This is a developing story and SOFREP will update this piece as new information comes in.