North Korea fired an unidentified projectile

North Korea launched a sea-to-surface ballistic missile on Saturday, South Korea’s military chiefs said, hours after the United States warned of the possibility of Pyongyang resuming nuclear tests in the coming weeks.

• Also read: Washington estimates North Korea could conduct a nuclear test this month

• Also read: North Korea Launches Ballistic Missile, Seoul Says

• Also read: North Korea launches ‘unidentified projectile’

It is the 15th demonstration of power this year for the nuclear-armed country, which has also fired an ICBM for the first time since 2017.

This fresh start comes ahead of new South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol’s inauguration on Tuesday, favoring the balance of power with the North and fueling fears of an escalation.

The US State Department warned Friday that a nuclear test could take place “as soon as this month,” based on satellite imagery.

“Our military discovered at around 2:07 p.m. that a short-range ballistic missile, believed to be an SLBM, was fired from the sea off Sinpo, South Hamgyong,” South Korea’s military headquarters said in a press release on Saturday.

Sinpo is a major naval base in North Korea. Satellite images have shown the presence of submarines there in the past.

The missile has traveled a distance of 600km at an altitude of 60km, according to the South Korean military, suggesting it is a short-range ballistic missile.

It ended its run outside of Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone, said Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, adding that the “extremely high frequency” of testing this year was “absolutely unacceptable”.

Pyongyang’s “remarkable development of nuclear and missile-related technology” poses a risk to regional and global security, he said, adding that Japan also believes “North Korea will be ready to conduct a nuclear test this month.”

In April, at a major military parade, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pledged to build up its nuclear forces “as soon as possible” and warned of possible “pre-emptive strikes,” as South Korean President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol mentioned.

On Friday, Washington, through diplomatic spokeswoman Jalina Porter, warned that Pyongyang “may have prepared the Punggye-ri test site and be ready to conduct a test there as early as this month, which would be its seventh nuclear test.”

“This analysis is consistent with recent public statements by North Korea itself,” she added, assuring that the US government has shared it with its allies and will continue its “close coordination with them.”

US President Joe Biden will visit Japan and South Korea this month, where concerns about Pyongyang will be on the menu.

The recent rocket launch could be linked to that visit or to Tuesday’s inauguration of Mr Yoon, who promised an inflexible line north.

“Rather than accepting invitations to engage in dialogue, the Kim regime appears to be preparing to test a tactical nuclear warhead,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.

North Korea had conducted six nuclear tests before hiring a senior diplomat with the United States, with then-US President Donald Trump meeting Kim Jong-un four times.

“A seventh nuclear test would be the first since September 2017 and would fuel tensions on the Korean peninsula and increase the risk of miscalculations and misunderstandings between the Kim regime and the future Yoon government,” Easley said.

South Korea has more conventional weapons capability than its northern neighbor and Mr Yoon called for more US military assets to be deployed.

South Korea tested its own sea-to-surface ballistic missile in 2021, becoming one of the few countries to master the technology. She also unveiled a supersonic cruise missile, highlighting an arms race in the peninsula.

On Wednesday, Pyongyang launched what Seoul and Tokyo described as a ballistic missile, but North Korean state media, which usually cover the weapons tests, did not report it.

Hong Min, a researcher at the Korea Institute for National Unification, thought on Saturday “that today’s launch is similar to Wednesday’s ballistic missile.”

“It looks like the North is conducting a series of tests to meet its strategic objectives,” he added.

Negotiations to convince Kim Jong-un to give up nuclear weapons failed.

For five years, South Korean President Moon Jae-in pursued a policy of dialogue with Pyongyang, but this “slavish” approach was a clear failure, according to his successor.

According to analysts, Kim Jong-un may want to use this series of tests to warn that he is not open to dialogue with the new government.

Leave a Comment