Russia raises defense alert after North Korea launches missile

Russia raised the level of alert for its air defense system just a few hours after North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile on Saturday and after Washington and Moscow clashed at the United Nations over a possible military conflict on the Korean Peninsula.

The North Korean missile exploded shortly after launch, US and South Korean officials said, in what is the latest in a flurry of tests this year in violation of UN resolutions to try and halt the country’s nuclear weapons program.

“Russia is carefully monitoring what is happening in North Korea and the air defense forces in the Far East are in a status of heightened readiness,” said Viktor Ozerov, chair of the committee for defense and security of the Federation Council or Russia’s upper house, in Moscow.

Russia, which has a land border with North Korea, is aware it’s not a target of the missiles, but it will ensure no missile lands on Russian territory, he said.

The alert is for air defenses in the city of Khabarovsk, the headquarters of the East Military District, and is precautionary, a source in the district told Asia Times. The area contains batteries of Russia’s S-400 Triumph  long-range anti-missile defenses.

While Russia shares a border with North Korea it has never been regarded as a target of the Pyongyang regime, which typically directs its threats of military attack toward South Korea, Japan and the US.

However, the move by Moscow adds to a tense military standoff in Northeast Asia a day after Russia clashed with the US at the UN Security Council, warning that a military attack on North Korea would have “catastrophic consequences,” AFP reported.

Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Gennady Gatilov speaks at a Security Council meeting on North Korea at the UN in New York on April 28. Photo: Reuters

The US this week moved an aircraft carrier, guided missile destroyers and a nuclear powered submarine into waters near the Korean Peninsula and has said its patience with North Korea’s violations of UN sanctions is over.

US President Donald Trump this week said a major military conflict with North Korea was possible, though a solution through diplomacy and economic sanctions is being sought

The use of the term “catastrophic consequences” by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov at the Security Council was also adopted by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, though in a different context.

He warned the UN Security Council that failure to curb North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs would also lead to “catastrophic consequences.”

Six-party talks

Russia said China’s proposals to restart talks with North Korea should be seriously examined and that sanctions alone would not work.

China’s proposal for a freeze on North Korea’s military programs in exchange for a halt to US-South Korea military drills are…

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