S. Korea, US looking at ‘all options‘ against NK provocations
South Korea and the United States are looking at "all options" to prevent any further provocations from North Korea following the botched launch of a long-range rocket last week, the top U.S. military commander in Asia and the Pacific said Tuesday.
Adm. Samuel Locklear, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, made the remarks at a meeting with South Korean defense journalists in Seoul, four days after the North's rocket launch ended in failure and prompted speculation that Pyongyang may conduct a nuclear test in an effort to save face.
"It's true that in the past that North Korean government has followed this type of missile launch with further provocations," Locklear said.
"It is my hope that this will not occur, but in this case hope is not enough and I can assure you that we will work very closely with the allies in this region to monitor the situation in North Korea to prevent future provocations," he said.
Asked about some opinions in the U.S. over the need for a surgical strike against missile bases and nuclear test sites in North Korea, Locklear replied, "I don't think it would be really appropriate for me to comment on how we pursue any future military operations, but I can tell you that with the alliance we are continually looking at all options."
North Korea claimed the launch was designed to put a satellite into orbit, but South Korea, the United States and others blasted it as a cover for testing improved ballistic missile technology.
The North's failed launch drew swift international condemnation. In New York on Monday, the United Nations Security Council "strongly condemned" the North's launch, saying it will impose new sanctions if Pyongyang carries out another launch of a long-range rocket or a nuclear test.
South Korean intelligence officials have warned of a repeat of North Korea's provocations in 2009, when it last launched a long-range rocket in April then conducted its second nuclear test a month later.
The North's Unha-3 long-range rocket exploded mid-air about two minutes after blast-off on Friday and disintegrated into some 20 pieces, dealing an embarrassing blow to the prestige of North Korea under its new leader Kim Jong-un.
Locklear said that the unsuccessful launch "was a fairly catastrophic failure and it certainly caused me to question their competency and advanced missile technology."
The rocket launch was supposed to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of North Korean founder Kim Il-sung, grandfather of the young leader who took over the North after the December death of his father, Kim Jong-il.
"As far as any movement for follow-up provocations, I can assure you that the alliance is looking carefully at this," Locklear said.
Later in the day, Locklear met South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan and discussed the situation on the Korean Peninsula, ministry officials said.