Tensions are high on the Korean Peninsula due to the United States and its allies' response to North Korea's recent barrage of missile launches, one of which unexpectedly passed over the neighboring country of Japan.
Even in a year that has seen the most launches since leader Kim Jong Un assumed power in 2011, North Korea has fired ballistic missiles seven times since September 25.
Alarm about the region's escalating weapons testing has prompted the US, South Korea, and Japan to launch missiles and conduct joint military drills this week. Additionally, the US has redeployed an aircraft carrier into area waters close to the peninsula, a move deemed "very unusual" by South Korean authorities.
The testing itself is nothing new; North Korea has been working on its arsenal for a long time.
As North Korea conducted a nuclear test and launched 23 missiles during the year, including two over Japan, tensions came dangerously close to a crisis. The demonstration of weaponry that could reach much of the world during the testing included the nation's first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
According to experts, there are a few reasons why North Korea is currently stepping up its testing so quickly.
First of all, it might just be the ideal moment given the recent events, with Kim proclaiming triumph against Covid in August and a new US administration in place that has prioritized public displays of solidarity with South Korea.
According to Andrei Lankov, a professor at South Korea's Kookmin University, "they haven't been able to test for quite a few years due to political reasons, so I'd expect North Korean engineers and generals to be quite eager to make sure their toys are going to perform well."
Professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies and weapons expert Jeffrey Lewis said it's also typical for North Korea to halt testing during the stormy summer and resume after the weather improves in the fall.
But, a few experts noted that by purposefully displaying North Korea's armament during a time of heightened international conflict, Kim could also be conveying a message.
They want to serve as a reminder to the rest of the world that they are authentic, that they exist, and that their engineers are hard at work creating both nuclear weapons and delivery methods, according to Lankov.
Carl Schuster, a former director of operations at the Joint Intelligence Center of the US Pacific Command in Hawaii, shared this viewpoint. According to him, Kim "launches missiles to draw attention to himself and to put pressure on Japan and the United States to confront him."
He went on to say that North Korea might feel inspired to act now while the West is preoccupied with the conflict in Ukraine. According to Lankov, Kim's confidence may have increased due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine since it "demonstrated that if you have nuclear weapons, you can have almost impunity." And you're in trouble if you don't have nuclear weapons.
In a statement released on Friday, North Korea claimed that the cruise missile launches this week were part of nuclear strike drills that also included the demolition of a fictitious underwater drone. Kim Jong Un, the country's leader, promised to "plunge" his adversaries "into despair."
In retaliation for joint military drills between the US and its ally South Korea to tackle the North's expanding nuclear threat, North Korea has increased its weapons demonstrations. The 11-day exercise, which featured the most effective field training in years, was finished by the partners on Thursday. Still, North Korea is anticipated to resume its weapons testing as it is rumored that the US would send an aircraft carrier shortly for more joint exercises with the South.
This year, the North has launched over 20 ballistic and cruise missiles over ten separate launch occasions to diversify its delivery mechanisms and demonstrate a dual capability to launch nuclear attacks on South Korea and the U.S. mainland. With over 70 missiles shot in 2022, North Korea is coming off a record year for testing activity. Kim accelerated a push to persuade the United States to acknowledge the North's status as a nuclear power and negotiate the lifting of much-needed sanctions from a position of strength.
In response, South Korea and the US have increased their joint military drills, which were scaled back in prior years. South Korea and the United States are preparing to undertake a live-fire exercise in June that will be "unprecedented" in scope, according to Seoul's Defense Ministry.
There is nothing that the US and its allies can do to prevent or prepare for North Korea's weapons tests, according to experts, despite its fast military response this past week.
"The Americans sent the Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier. About a South Korean missile that fell shortly after launch on Wednesday, Lankov claimed that South Koreans were launching these missiles, which were not always practical. What effect do all of these American aircraft carriers passing by Korea have? Hardly much at all.
Share This Post On
Leave a comment
You need to login to leave a comment. Log-in