No grounds for conclusion by S. Korean specialists on similarity between missiles launched by N. Korea, Russian Iskanders - Russian expert
MOSCOW. July 26 (Interfax) - Seoul's intention to draw a parallel between the missiles recently launched by North Korea and the Russian missile system Iskander is motivated not technically but politically, Vladimir Yevseyev of the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies said.
"From the purely technical standpoint, it's hardly understandable why the idea emerged to draw a parallel with the Iskander, which, let's put it this way, has a slightly higher altitude and shorter range. The second missile launched by the DPRK had a range of 600 kilometers. The Iskander doesn't fly this far. Therefore, I don't see what analogies can be drawn here but groundless declarations," Yevseyev told Interfax on Friday.
The South Korean Defense Ministry was asked to evaluate the North Korean missiles for purely political considerations pursued by Seoul, he said.
"South Korea is so sensitive to this situation because it sees the North Korean missiles as a real threat to its security: they can strike targets across the entire southern part of the peninsula. We are talking precisely about South Korean targets, as the Americans protect their military sites in South Korea with the THAAD missile defense system. The South Korean missile defense system is currently under construction," he said.
By test-firing those missiles, Pyongyang did not intend to frighten Seoul but rather sent a certain message to Washington, he said.
"Those launches certainly meant to be a demonstration, but rather for the U.S. than for South Korea. As far as one can judge, the North Koreans don't fear the South Koreans. Therefore, those launches shouldn't be perceived as some deterring message to Seoul. I guess that was a message to the Americans: on the one hand, there is some room for negotiation, but if the U.S. and South Korea conduct joint military exercises, the DPRK would go ahead with missile launches," Yevseyev said.
By firing these missiles, Pyongyang did not create any risks of escalating tensions in the region, particularly on the Korean Peninsula, he said.
"The range of this missile apparently doesn't enable it to strike, for instance, Japan or U.S. sites outside of the Korean Peninsula. There can be no direct negative effect because the missiles were launched toward the Sea of Japan. They didn't fall within anyone's exclusive zone. From this perspective, the missile launches didn't pose any danger," he said.
Washington's quite moderate reaction to the launches of North Korean missiles was logical in its sense, considering the de facto start of a presidential election campaign in the U.S., Yevseyev said.
"Responding to this situation this way, the Americans have shown that neither those launches nor the development of tactical missiles by North Korea pose a direct threat to the U.S. Washington's position essentially implies that Pyongyang did not violate the agreements on the demilitarized zone. Why would the U.S. care? Trump needs some positive developments now in light of the unfolding presidential election campaign so as to demonstrate the 'success' of the U.S. policy on the North Korean track," he said.
In this context, Washington is likely to try to downplay the problem, as Pyongyang might take more of similar steps in the future, he said.
Yonhap News Agency reported earlier citing the South Korean Defense Ministry that the short-range missiles North Korea test-fired on Thursday were a new type of ballistic missiles analogous to Russia's Iskander missiles.
In particular, South Korean military specialists reportedly concluded that the technical parameters of the missiles tested by Pyongyang were similar to those of the 9K720 Iskander missile.