South Korea’s military stated that North Korea fired two suspected short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM) from an airport in Pyongyang on Monday, the fourth test this month to demonstrate its burgeoning missile arsenal. The launch was also reported in Japan, with Hirokazu Matsuno, the country’s chief cabinet secretary, criticising it as a threat to peace and security.
The news: North Korea has performed three more missile tests in less than two weeks, an extraordinarily quick run of launches. Two of them included single hypersonic missiles capable of great speed and manoeuvrability after launch, according to the report, while a test on Friday involved a pair of short-range ballistic missiles launched from train cars.
- The launch seemed to involve two SRBMs fired east from Sunan Airfield in Pyongyang.
- The missiles fired on Monday travelled around 380 kilometres (236 miles) and reached a maximum height of 42 kilometres (26 miles), according to the JCS.
- The missiles looked to have landed in the water near North Korea’s east coast, according to Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi.
What they’re saying: Kishi told reporters, “It is self-evident that the goal of North Korea’s repeated missile tests is to strengthen their missile technology.”
- “North Korea’s repeated ballistic missile launches are a major challenge for the international community, including Japan,” Kishi said, adding that the launches were in breach of UN Security Council resolutions prohibiting North Korea from developing any ballistic missiles.
- The Indo-Pacific Command of the United States military said the launch did not pose an imminent threat to the U.S. or its allies, but “recent missile launches demonstrate the destabilising consequences of North Korea’s illegal weapons programme.”
- According to Mason Richey, a professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul, the pace of testing and the various launch sites indicate that North Korea has enough missiles to feel comfortable spending them on tests, training, and demonstrations, and that this helps to reinforce its deterrent credibility by emphasising the size of its missile force.
What’s going on: Many of the most recent SRBMs, particularly hypersonic missiles, appear to be designed to circumvent missile defences. North Korea has also stated that it intends to pursue tactical nuclear weapons, which might enable it to deploy nuclear warheads on SRBMs.
- The latest launches have elicited both condemnation and a request for dialogue from a U.S. administration that has imposed fresh sanctions and is pushing for more in response to North Korean missile launches.
- On Wednesday, U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration put its first new sanctions on Pyongyang, calling on the United Nations Security Council to place numerous North Korean persons and businesses on a no-fly list. It also reiterated demands for North Korea to return to talks aimed at lowering tensions and persuading it to hand over its nuclear and ballistic missile arsenals.
- North Korea has justified its missile launches as a sovereign right to self-defence, accusing the U.S. of deliberately inflaming tensions with fresh sanctions.
- After Monday’s test, South Korea’s national security council convened an emergency meeting, with members emphasising that above all, it is essential to begin dialogue as soon as possible in order for the situation on the Korean Peninsula to not become more strained and to restore stability.
- North Korea appeared to be prepared to open at least some trade across its land border with China, while being more isolated than ever due to self-imposed border barriers designed at preventing a COVID-19 pandemic.
- China criticised the latest U.S. penalties last week, but also urged all parties to exercise caution and participate in talks in order to de-escalate tensions.
China claims to enforce existing international sanctions against North Korea, but has joined Russia in urging the United Nations Security Council to loosen the penalties, claiming that they harm civilians.