Ignoring offers of dialogue and sanctions, North Korea conducted a test of what appears to be two cruise missiles on Tuesday morning, Seoul said, bringing to five the number of tests this month for Pyongyang.
It is the first time since 2019, and the failure of negotiations between Kim Jong Un and then US President Donald Trump, that North Korea has tested so many weapons in a month. “North Korea fired what is suspected to be two cruise missiles,” the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff wrote in a statement, without giving further details.
Stepping up the pressure on Washington
Cruise missiles are not banned under the current UN sanctions regime, and South Korea does not always report such tests in real time as it does for ballistic missile launches. Pyongyang’s last known test of cruise missiles was in September 2021. “If such a missile were launched southward, our detection and interception systems would have no problem countering it,” a southern military official explained. Korean to Yonhap News Agency.
Pyongyang began several weeks ago a series of arms tests to show its strength and intensify pressure on Washington. This series of firings follows a speech delivered in December in which leader Kim Jong Un pledged to modernize his arsenal.
” Draw attention “
The new try appears to be an attempt to provoke US President Joe Biden’s administration, which has offered talks “without preconditions” but made no substantive high-level commitments over the past year. “North Korea seems to want to test Washington’s reaction by displaying its presence on the world stage,” said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies.
By firing a cruise missile, Pyongyang can, without violating UN sanctions, continue to try “to grab the attention of the world while thumbing its nose at the United States”. The trials come at a delicate time for the region, with China, the North Korean regime’s only major ally, hosting the Winter Olympics in February and South Korea holding a presidential election in March. Domestically, North Korea will celebrate the 80th birthday of former leader Kim Jong Il in February and the 110th birthday of regime founder Kim Il Sung in April.
“Peace on the Korean Peninsula depends on North Korea”
Pyongyang has not tested intercontinental ballistic missiles or nuclear weapons since 2017, when Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump began a dialogue process that was expected to last two years before failing. The North Korean regime, however, threatened last week with a resumption of these tests banned by the United Nations. North Korea, whose economic difficulties are amplified by the total closure of borders to combat the pandemic, began to slowly resume trade with its Chinese neighbor in early January.
Russia and China last week blocked a plan for new sanctions in the UN Security Council last week in response to the latest missile strikes. The tests could be an attempt to put pressure on China, says researcher and defector from North Korea Ahn Chan-il. “The Beijing Olympics cannot be a celebration of peace without peace on the Korean Peninsula,” he said. “And peace on the Korean Peninsula depends on North Korea.”