Japan, Australia wary as North Korea prepares for ICBM launch ahead of US drill

North Korea prepares for ICBM launch ahead of US, South Korea naval exercise but this time Australia is also in the radar.

4 dead, 8 injured in Indonesian military drill in in South China Sea
Representational image Reuters

As the US and South Korea prepare for their joint naval military exercise off the sea shore, satellite pictures have surfaced in media showing ballistic missiles being mounted on launchers in the North before their launch from the North Phyongan Province.

Seeing the belligerent turn of events in the vicinity, Japan is wary that North Korea may again show its missile strength using its inter-continental missile again shooting above its skies, while the conflict is reaching even the Australian shores.

Since the speculation is rife that Pyongyang may use this time its Hwasong-14 inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM), capable of reaching Alaska, or Hwasong-12 intermediate-range missiles which can reach easily the US Pacific territory of Guam, a missile launch nearer to Australian shores is not ruled out.

The Donga Ilbo daily and other media reports said the North may even be toying with the idea of testing its more advanced Hwasong-13 ICBM that has a capability of reaching even the US West Coast. However, the US defense ministry spokesman maintained stoic silence merely saying, "We are keeping a close watch over the North."

Stretching the regional conflict, North Korea on Saturday roped in Australia and threatened it with consequences for aligning with South Korea and the US.

"Of late, Australia is showing dangerous moves of zealously joining the frenzied political and military provocations of the US against the DPRK," said a statement by state-run news agency KCNA in retaliation to remarks made by Australian defence minister during a visit to South Korea.

In another distraction, North alleged that the South is harbouring plans of "unification through absorption" terming it as another "intolerable politically-motivated provocation." What ensues such harsh exchange of words is provocation for a bigger regional conflict.

Japan, despite its ongoing elections, is apprehensive that the situation may turn ugly sooner than expected. Even NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg warned Friday that any military intervention against North Korea would have "devastating consequences."

It remains to be seen whether the next ICBM test will be targeted at unnerving Japan or Australia.