South Korean military chief to visit US after North Korean missiles flies over Japan

South Korean military chief to visit US after North Korean missiles flies over Japan

South Korean Defence Minister Song Young-moo will be welcomed to the Pentagon today—one day after North Korea fired a ballistic

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il surveys military drills

South Korean Defence Minister Song Young-moo will be welcomed to the Pentagon today—one day after North Korea fired a ballistic missile over northern Japan in its most provocative test to date.

Mr Song and US counterpart Jim Mattis are expected to discuss plans to accelerate the deployment of the THAAD missile defence system. THAAD is designed to intercept short, medium and intermediate range ballistic missiles on re-entry, including outside the Earth’s atmosphere—a unique characteristic. The batteries, of which about five are believed to exist, would have monitored yesterday’s launch closely. Whether the lack of an interception was deliberate or the result of system limitations is unknown.

Missing from today’s talks is Japan—it finds itself in the firing line and lacks the THAAD system or a credible offensive military. A 40-minute phone call between Shinzo Abe and Donald Trump yesterday produced messages of defiance; a UN Security Council meeting late on Tuesday night is expected to echo this.

As tensions reach crisis point, one country has the power to de-escalate them: China. While a foreign ministry spokesperson admitted the situation is at “tipping point”, she also signalled an opportunity “to reopen peace talks”. Between bombastic rhetoric and errant missiles, such prospects seem dim.

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