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Philippines closely watching developments in Korean Peninsula

Ballistic missile launch threat by North Korea sets in motion contingency plans, and not for the first time

Gulf News

Manila: The Philippine government said it is closely watching developments in the Korean Peninsula amid threats by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) against Guam.

“The Philippine Embassy in Seoul and the Consulate General in Agana have been monitoring the situation closely and have been working closely with the Filipino communities in the Republic of Korea and Guam, respectively, to ensure preparedness for any eventuality,” Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said on Sunday.

Over the past several weeks, US President Donald Trump and Kim had been engaged in a war of words that brought jitters of an impending nuclear holocaust.

Trump had warned to bring “fire and fury” to North Korea, saying that US weapons are “locked and loaded” to respond to Pyongyang’s continued sabre-rattling as it continues developing its nuclear capabilities and ballistic missile programme.

While US and countries like South Korea and Japan have measures to counter an ICBM launch against Guam, countries such as the Philippines are closely watching the events since it is located close to the potential scene of conflict.

Guam is home to the one of the United States’ biggest military bases. According to reports, an ICBM launch from North Korea will only take as little as 17 minutes to reach its target in the US Trust Territory.

North Korean commander of Strategic Force of the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea (DPRK), Gen Kim Rak Gyom, said they are planning to launch four Hwasong 12 intermediate range ballistic missiles (IRBM) in mid-August.

“The Philippines reiterates its call for continued exercise of self-restraint in order to de-escalate the tension and to refrain from actions that may aggravate the situation on the Korean Peninsula,” said Abella.

Assistant Secretary of National Defence and Office of Civil Defence (OCD), Deputy Administrator Kristoffer James Purisima, said the Philippines is taking precautions considering the tensions.

“OCD is closely monitoring the situation. We will coordinate with the relevant government agencies and meet necessary assessments in order to prepare appropriate contingency plans, alerts, and warnings for the awareness and protection of our civilian populace,” he said.

Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a statement on Saturday that while the Philippines believe that the North Korean missile is not directed at the Philippines, the government is treating the matter as a Civil Defence issue instead of a military matter.

“Our Office of Civil Defence is on standby and prepared to address any untoward incident that may occur in the aftermath of such a missile launch. As we have done in the past, we have directed the OCD to coordinate with the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] in determining the areas that will potentially, although remotely, be affected,” he said.

The Philippines had placed its emergency forces on alert several times in the past on news of a North Korean missile launch. While the launches were a mix of success and failure, the August warning from DPRK comes at a time when the reclusive state had closely developed its nuclear capabilities and missile delivery systems to a level of high success.

“To our compatriots, do not worry. As we always say, let us all be alert and inform the authorities if you notice anything unusual in your area,” Lorenzana said.