North Korea launches a ballistic missile in the latest show of force – The Citizen
North Korea launched a ballistic missile WednesdaySeoul said, a week after Kim Jong Un promised to upgrade Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal and just days before the South inaugurated a new hawkish president.
Pyongyang has conducted 14 weapons tests since January, including launching a full-range ICBM for the first time since 2017.
Last week Kim oversaw a huge military parade, vowed to rapidly expand and improve its nuclear arsenal, and warned of possible “preemptive” attacks, as satellite images indicate that nuclear testing may soon resume.
Wednesday’s test comes just days before the inauguration, on May 10, of South Korean President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol, who vowed to take a hard line with North Korea and strengthen cooperation on security matters. with the United States after years of failed diplomacy.
North Korea launched the ballistic missile at 12:03 (0303 GMT), the Seoul Joint Chief of Staff said, likely from Sunan airport near Pyongyang, the site of earlier recent ICBM tests.
The missile flew 470 km (300 miles) and reached an altitude of 780 km, the JCS said, adding that it was a “flagrant violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.”
Japanese Defense Minister Makoto Oniki confirmed the missile’s launch and trajectory, saying it had landed “outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone”.
North Korea’s “repeated ballistic missile launches threaten the peace and security of our nation, the region and the international community,” he added.
The Seoul National Security Council said it “strongly” condemned the launch, urging the North to “cease actions that pose a serious threat to the Korean peninsula” and return to dialogue.
Since high-level diplomacy with then-US President Donald Trump collapsed, North Korea has doubled down on Kim’s plans for military modernization, seemingly insensitive to threats of further sanctions as it ignores the states’ offers of talks. United.
– Other nuclear weapons? –
Kim Jong Un told a military parade last week that he would take steps to develop “our state’s nuclear forces at the maximum speed possible,” according to footage of his speech broadcast in state media.
Repeated negotiations aimed at convincing Kim to give up his nuclear weapons have failed.
“There is a good chance they have launched a missile that can be equipped with a nuclear warhead,” Ahn Chan-il, a North Korean scholar, told AFP on Wednesday.
Kim also warned he could use his nuclear force “preemptively” to counter so-called hostile forces in a meeting with military leaders last week.
Analysts said Kim’s message about his nuclear weapons, in addition to the recent test, could be seen as a signal to President-elect Yoon, who has threatened a preemptive strike on Pyongyang.
“It could be a warning message for … Yoon,” said Hong Min of the Korea Institute for National Unification.
Yoon suggested that he would only be willing to talk about peace if North Korea confirms that it is willing to denuclearize, which Pyongyang will never accept, Hong said.
“It could also signal Pyongyang’s position that it has no choice but to further upgrade its arsenal if Seoul and Washington decide to deploy strategic military assets to the south,” he added.
– Seoul’s hard line –
For five years under President Moon Jae-in, Seoul has pursued a policy of engagement with Pyongyang, mediating high-level summits between Kim and Trump and reducing joint US military exercises that the North considers provocative.
But for President-elect Yoon, this “submissive” approach was a blatant failure.
He said during the election campaign that he would like more US missile defenses – and even tactical nuclear weapons – deployed in South Korea, and vowed to step up joint military exercises, which infuriates Pyongyang.
US President Joe Biden will visit South Korea later this month to meet Yoon.
Other analysts said North Korea’s test blitz could be aimed at exploiting the UN deadlock following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
It is “virtually impossible” for the Security Council to sanction North Korea – which supported Russia’s attack on Ukraine – due to Moscow’s veto power, said Cheong Seong-chang of the Center for North Korea Studies at the Sejong Institute.
“The North will then seek to test as many missiles as possible that it has not been able to do so far, allowing it to upgrade the capabilities of its arsenal at a fast pace.”