For N Korea, there's no such thing as a free launch

The United States and its allies will look at “all options” if North Korea follows its botched rocket launch with further provocations, a US military commander said on Tuesday.

“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,” Yonhap news agency quoted Admiral Samuel Locklear, commander of the US Pacific Command, as saying in Seoul.

Asked about a possible strike on the North’s missile base or nuclear test sites, he said: “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 potentially looking at all options.”

The comment, confirmed by US military authorities, came after the United Nations security council ordered tightened sanctions on the North over its rocket launch and warned of new action if the state stages a nuclear test.

Pyongyang said the rocket was intended to place a satellite into orbit but Western critics said the launch was a thinly veiled ballistic missile test, banned by UN resolutions.

A South Korean official said on Sunday that preparations for a third nuclear test were under way in the northeastern town of Punggye-ri, where the North carried out two previous tests in 2006 and 2009.

At a military parade on Sunday, the North unveiled an apparently new missile longer than its existing Musudan missile.

The Musudan, about 12m long, is believed to have a range of 3 000 to 4 000 kilometres, while the new missile appears capable of reaching at least 1 000km further, said Ham Hyeong-Pil of Seoul’s Korea Institute for Defence Analyses.

Christian Lardier, a specialist with the French magazine Air and Cosmos, also said it was a Taepodong-class missile about 20m long and the first stage was identical to that of the rocket fired on Friday.


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