Missiles against declarations. According to the South Korean army, North Korea launched a “suspected ballistic missile” towards the sea on Tuesday, while a closed meeting of the United Nations Security Council was held at the same time, to discuss Pyongyang’s military trials, and that several countries have openly condemned the country’s abuses.
The projectile, which would have reached hypersonic speeds, was launched from land towards the sea located east of the Korean peninsula at 07:27 (2227 GMT, Monday), according to a statement from the general staff. South Korean Joint Force. Information confirmed by the Japanese authorities, who saw “an object which could be a ballistic missile” along their coasts.
“It is estimated that (the alleged missile) traveled about 700 km and landed outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said. If no damage was reported, the shot was immediately condemned. “It is deeply regrettable that North Korea continues to launch missiles,” Fumio Kishida said.
A maneuver addressed to the UN Security Council?
Hours before the shooting, Japan and five other countries, including the United States, had urged North Korea to cease its “destabilizing actions”. France, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Albania joined in the call “to refrain from any further destabilizing action (…) and to engage in a constructive dialogue towards our common goal of complete denuclearization”.
These statements come ahead of a closed meeting of the United Nations Security Council on the January 5 test of what Pyongyang presented as a hypersonic missile. According to some experts, Pyongyang may have purposely timed its firing to coincide with the UN meeting.
“The launch has political and military motivations,” Shin Beom-chul, a researcher at the Korea National Strategy Research Institute, told AFP. “North Korea continues its attempts to diversify its nuclear arsenal, but it planned the launch on the day of the UN Security Council meeting to maximize its political impact,” he added.
According to Park Won-gon, a professor at Ewha University for Women in Seoul, the frequency of testing indicates that Pyongyang may make launches ahead of the Beijing Olympics next month. North Korea was banned from participating in the Winter Olympics by the International Olympic Committee after refusing to participate in the Tokyo Summer Games in 2021 due to a pandemic.
Hypersonic warhead and military reinforcement
Since Kim Jong Un came to power a decade ago, Pyongyang has made rapid advances in military technology, at the cost of international sanctions. Despite an economic situation further aggravated by the pandemic, the leader assured in December that he would continue to strengthen his military arsenal. Possessing hypersonic missiles is one of the objectives deemed “priority” in terms of armament.
In 2021, North Korea, equipped with nuclear weapons, claimed to have successfully tested a new type of sea-to-surface ballistic missile (SLBM), a long-range cruise missile, a piece of weaponry launched from a train and what she described as a hypersonic warhead. South Korea has questioned Pyongyang’s claims, saying last week’s shooting was not a major step up from previous ballistic missiles.
A second hypersonic test so soon could even indicate that last week’s launch was in fact a failure, according to Kim Dong-yub, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies. “It’s hard to understand why they would perform another test less than a week after announcing a success,” he said.
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US Forces Korea (USFK) said Tuesday’s test is evidence of “the destabilizing consequences of the DPRK’s (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) illicit weapons program” using the official name of North Korea .
The firing also comes as Pyongyang has refused to heed US calls for further talks. Dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington has remained deadlocked since 2019, after talks between Kim Jong Un and then-US President Donald Trump broke down.
Joe Biden’s government has repeatedly shown its willingness to meet with North Korean envoys and aim for denuclearization, but Pyongyang has rejected the offer, accusing the United States of pursuing “hostile” policies. North Korea is under international sanctions for its banned weapons programs. Pressure on its battered economy has been heightened by the strict border closures ordered to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.