South Korea 'ready for combat' following North's test


South Korea is "fully ready" for combat, a senior military official said Thursday, local media reported, following the North's testing of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

Rear Adm. Kwon Jeong-seop, commander of Maritime Battle Group 1, spoke as the navy and air force carried out a live-fire exercise off the east coast.

"Our military is fully ready for an immediate response even in the event of combat today," Kwon said, according to Yonhap News Agency.

The North claimed Tuesday that it had successfully tested its first ICBM -- a weapon that could potentially reach Alaska.

The drills involved 15 ships including the Yang Manchun destroyer as well as maritime surveillance aircraft and fighter jets. South Korean forces launched guided missiles in a show of force against a simulated naval attack.

It was the second day of maneuvers in the East Sea, or Sea of Japan. Wednesday saw South Korean and U.S. forces conduct joint combined missile training.

Meanwhile, President Moon Jae-in called on North Korea to return to talks, Yonhap reported.

Speaking in Germany, where he is to attend the G20 summit, Moon said "we cannot but be concerned of a possible armed conflict as the North continues to raise tension by making nuclear and missile provocations".

World leaders gathering in Hamburg are expected to discuss ways to deal with North Korea, which is already under a heavy sanctions regime over nuclear and missile tests.

At a Brussels news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called on Pyongyang to engage in dialogue with the international community.

"North Korea must comply with its international obligations," he said. "Stop all activities related to its ballistic missile and nuclear programs."

In a joint EU-Japanese statement, the bloc said: "We stand ready to strengthen measures aimed at further restricting the transfer of relevant items and technologies and funding for North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs."

The EU also called on the North to refrain from further provocation.

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