North Korea launched two suspected ballistic missiles on Monday, according to Seoul, marking the country’s fourth weapons test this month as Pyongyang flexes its military strength while disregarding US overtures of negotiations.
Pyongyang has launched a series of weapons tests this year, including hypersonic missiles, despite harsh international sanctions, as leader Kim Jong Un pursues his stated objective of boosting the military.
North Korea, which is suffering economically as a result of a self-imposed coronavirus embargo, has ignored Washington’s offers of negotiations, instead doubling down on nuclear tests and promising a “stronger and certain” reaction to any attempts to reign it in.
The launches occur at a critical juncture in the area, with China, North Korea’s lone major ally, hosting the Winter Olympics next month and South Korea preparing for a presidential election in March.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff of the South Korean military claimed two suspected “short-range ballistic missiles” were fired east from a Pyongyang airfield early Monday, with Japan verifying the launch.
They were launched immediately before 9 a.m. (0000 GMT) and traveled 380 kilometers (240 miles) at an altitude of 42 kilometers, according to the JCS.
North Korea is “seeking to develop its technology and operational capacity in terms of covert activities,” according to Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, who said the tests have been frequent and diverse this year.
Pyongyang claimed to have successfully launched hypersonic glide missiles on January 5 and 11, with Kim personally overseeing the second launch.
In response, the US imposed new penalties on five North Koreans linked to the country’s ballistic missile programs last week, eliciting a vehement response from Pyongyang.
According to state news agency KCNA, a spokesman for North Korea’s foreign ministry called the maneuver a “provocation.”
If “the US takes such a hostile approach,the DPRK would be compelled to take a harsher and more certain response.” Pyongyang fired two train-launched missiles on Friday. The official warned.
According to analysts, the Monday test looked to be an attempt to convey a message to the United States.
According to Hong Min of the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul, “it is signaling that it would go on with testing despite criticism.”
Needs win Hypersonic missiles are a primary objective in Pyongyang’s new five-year defense development plan, which was revealed in January 2021 and pursued as talks with the US halted.
Pyongyang may be looking to offer citizens a military victory ahead of key domestic anniversaries, with the country facing major economic hardship after years of Covid-induced isolation.
“It needs to show something to North Koreans,” said Cheong Seong-chang of the Sejong Institute’s Center for North Korean Studies.
“It is now evident that the North will have a difficult time scoring on the economic front.”
According to the Yonhap news agency, a North Korean freight train crossed the Yalu River railroad crossing into China for the first time in over a year this weekend.
The decision might pave the way for the resumption of land commerce between China and North Korea, which has been halted since the outbreak began in early 2020.
According to Yang Moo-jin of the University of North Korean Studies, missile launches are expected to slow down ahead of the commencement of the Beijing Winter Olympics.
“The North will not cross a red line since stability on the peninsula is a requirement for a successful Beijing Olympics,” Yang added.