South Korea on Sunday strongly condemned North Korea's ballistic missile launch, calling it an "explicit and clear" violation of U.N. Security Council (UNSC) resolutions banning tests that can contribute to the advancement of nuclear weapons delivery capability.
Pyongyang fired off a ballistic missile at around 7:55 a.m. toward the East Sea from Banghyon air base in its western province of North Pyongan, the first missile provocation since Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th U.S. president on Jan. 20.
"(The missile launch) is not only an explicit and clear violation of related UNSC resolutions but also a grave threat to the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and the international community as a whole," Seoul's foreign ministry said in a statement.
"This demonstrates the irrational nature of the Kim Jong-un regime that has been fanatically obsessed with its nuclear and missile development," it added.
The ministry went on to say that Pyongyang's repeated provocations would only strengthen the international community's resolve to achieve the North's denuclearization, as it noted the provocative regime test-fired 24 ballistic missiles last year alone.
"By faithfully enforcing international sanctions, such as UNSC Resolution 2321, and strong stand-alone sanctions by our partners, such as the United States, Japan and the European Union, we will make the North realize that it will never be able to survive without dismantling all of its nuclear and missile programs," the ministry said.
It was referring to the latest sanctions resolution adopted late last year to punish Pyongyang for its fifth nuclear test in September.
The ministry, in addition, said Seoul will strive to curb the North's nuclear and missile threats based on its security alliance with the U.S., particularly through the extended deterrence, Washington's stated commitment to defending its Asian ally by mobilizing all military assets, both nuclear and conventional.
Hours after the missile launch, the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae convened a session of the Standing Committee of its National Security Office.
During the 50-minute session presided over by Kim Kwan-jin, chief of the National Security Office, Seoul decided to formulate a "strong response" in close cooperation with the international community.
After the session, Kim held a phone conversation with his U.S. counterpart Mike Flynn to discuss the North's latest saber-rattling.
The two sides strongly denounced the missile launch and agreed to explore "all possible ways" to curb Pyongyang's additional provocations.
Since the beginning of this year, Pyongyang has been ratcheting up military tensions. Its leader Kim Jong-un said in his New Year's statement that his country was in the closing phase of preparations to test-fire an ICBM, while the North's state media had said Pyongyang could fire an ICBM at any time from any place.
Ruling and opposition parties alike denounced the North's missile launch, calling the provocation "reckless."
"The North's reckless missile launch is a silly act that goes against the efforts for peace on the Korean Peninsula, and for reconciliation and cooperation," Ki Dong-min, the spokesman for the main opposition Democratic Party, said in a commentary.
"The North must bear in mind that any use of force or the threat of a provocation can't be justified for any rationale or cause," he added.
Kim Myung-yeon, the spokesman for the ruling Saenuri Party, warned that the North's provocation would only invite fresh punishments.
"It was a surprise provocation that threatens the safety of South Koreans and the peace on the Korean Peninsula," Kim said. "We call on the military to maintain a thorough and strong readiness posture to respond to Pyongyang's provocation." (Yonhap)