South Korea president warns of possible EMP and biochemical attacks from North Korea

A passerby looks at a TV screen reporting news about North Korea's missile launch in Tokyo, Japan September 15, 2017.
A passerby looks at a TV screen reporting news about North Korea's missile launch in Tokyo, Japan September 15, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL (REUTERS, AFP) - South Korean President Moon Jae In on Friday (Sept 15) ordered his officials to closely analyse North Korea's latest missile launch and prepare for possible new threats.

Mr Moon warned of new possible North Korean threats like EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) and biochemical attacks, said the president's spokesman Park Su Hyun after a meeting of the National Security Council.

The powerful waves from such an EMP blast would instantly overload electrical circuits within a certain range. The pulse would likely not cause direct bodily harm but could bring chaos in such areas as power supply and public transportation networks.

North Korea said on the day it conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test that it had developed a nuclear warhead that could also deliver an EMP attack.

South Korean officials said that Seoul detected signs of North Korea's missile launch preparations on Thursday and that it was reported to Mr Moon on Thursday afternoon.

After the report, Moon ordered the military to take military action in response, reported Yonhap news agency.

"Signs of North Korea preparing a missile launch were detected around 6.45 am Thursday and were reported to the president," an official told reporters.

"The president, without taking anything else into consideration, approved the firing of Hyunmoo missiles upon North Korea's missile provocation."

South Korea's military said on Friday it fired two ballistic Hyunmoo-2 missiles from an eastern site near the inter-Korean border just minutes after the North's missile firing from Pyongyang.

One "accurately hit" a simulated target in the East Sea about 250 km away, a Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) official told reporters in a background briefing. East Sea is also known as the Sea of Japan. That is the same distance between the training area and the Sunan airfield in Pyongyang, where North Korea's latest missile was fired.

Mr Moon warned that North Korea's latest provocation will only result in further diplomatic and economic isolation.

Even as the South Korean leader said dialogue with the North was impossible at this point, his unification ministry said on Friday it will seek to extend humanitarian assistance to North Korea regardless of political considerations.

Seoul said on Thursday it is considering offering US$8 million in aid to the North through UN agencies.

"The government has the basic stance that humanitarian assistance to infants and pregnant women in North Korea should be maintained regardless of political situations," Ms Lee Eugene, vice spokesperson at Seoul's unification ministry, told a press briefing.

Some critics questioned the timing of Seoul's announcement as it came just days after the UN Security Council slapped fresh sanctions on Pyongyang over its sixth nuclear test on Sept 3.

The sanctions included a restriction on North Korea's oil imports and a ban on its textile exports, one of its major sources for hard currency earnings.

"The UNSC adopted the toughest-ever sanctions resolution.... North Korea's economy is expected to inevitably take a hit," Lee said.

She said that as those who are vulnerable tend to be dealt the most blows during the economic hardship, assistance to such people is needed.

"Seoul plans to support cereal or vaccines-provision projects for North Koreans. The government does not think that the move compromises the spirit of the United Nations," Lee was quoted as saying by the Yonhap news agency.