September 18, 2021

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North Korea fires 2 ballistic missiles as arms rivalry intensifies

SEOUL – North Korea launched two ballistic missiles off its east coast on Wednesday, the first ballistic missile test in six months and a violation of several UN Security Council resolutions banning North Korea from carrying out such tests. .

Hours after the missile launch, South Korea announced that its president, Moon Jae-in, had just witnessed the test of the country’s first submarine-launched ballistic missile, making South Korea the seventh country in the world to use SLBM, after the United States, Russia, China, Great Britain, France and India.

Missile tests in both Koreas on the same day dramatically demonstrated the intensification of the arms race on the Korean peninsula as nuclear disarmament talks between Washington and North Korea stalled. They also highlighted growing concern for regional stability, with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga calling the North Korean missile launch “outrageous” and a threat to peace.

In its announcement, South Korea revealed that it has successfully developed a supersonic cruise missile and a long-range air-to-ground missile to be mounted on the KF-21, a South Korean supersonic fighter, and that it has developed a fairly good ballistic missile system. powerful to penetrate the underground bunkers of the North Korean war.

The launch of the North Korean missile occurred the day after the US special envoy urged the country to resume nuclear disarmament talks, saying the US had no “hostile” intentions towards it. Pyongyang. Neighboring countries have also stepped up efforts to bring North Korea back to the negotiating table.

North Korea led his previous ballistic missile test in March and tested what he called newly developed long-range cruise missiles over the weekend. But the United States has not imposed new sanctions on the North for weapons testing in recent years. When North Korea resumed short-range ballistic missile tests in 2019, President Donald J. Trump dismissed them for their short-range.

The Biden administration has said it will explore “practical” and “calibrated” diplomacy to achieve the goal of complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. But North Korea has yet to respond to the administration’s call for dialogue.

“Rather than stepping up sanctions and military exercises, the Allies have emphasized the desire for dialogue and humanitarian cooperation,” said Leif-Eric Easley, professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul. . “The problem with less than robust responses to North Korea’s tests is that deterrence can be eroded as Pyongyang improves its capabilities and normalizes its provocations.”

North Korean missiles launched Wednesday from Yangdok in the center of the country traveled 497 miles and reached an altitude of 37 miles before landing in the sea between North Korea and Japan, the southern army said. Korean. South Korean and American defense officials were analyzing data collected during the test to determine exactly what type of ballistic missiles were being used, he said.

Japan’s defense ministry released a statement saying it “assumed” that the missile had not reached the country’s territorial waters or its exclusive economic zone.

News of the North Korean missile test fell shortly after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, North Korea’s biggest supporter and only remaining trading partner, concluded a meeting with his South Korean counterpart. Korean, Chung Eui-yong, in Seoul.

“It is not only North Korea, but also other countries that are engaged in military activities,” Wang said when reporters asked him to comment on the North Korean cruise missile test over the weekend. “We must all work together to resume dialogue. We all hope to contribute to peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.

Mr. Wang did not provide details, but appeared to be referring to the joint military exercises conducted by the United States and South Korea last month. North Korea has accused Washington and Seoul of preparing to invade the North and generally opposes joint military exercises between the two allies with its own military exercises or weapons tests.

“The United States has no hostile intentions towards” North Korea, said Sung Kim, a special envoy for the Biden administration, in Tokyo, where he met with representatives from Japan and Korea. South to discuss the arsenal of the North. He said Washington hopes North Korea “will respond positively to our multiple offers to meet without preconditions.”

The latest tests have shown that North Korea continues to improve its missile arsenal despite a series of UN Security Council resolutions banning North Korea from developing or testing ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons.

Tensions on the Korean peninsula increased dramatically in 2017 when North Korea tested three ICBMs and carried out its sixth underground nuclear test, leading to UN sanctions. After the tests, the country said it could target the continental United States with a nuclear warhead.

Trump met with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, three times between 2018 and 2019, but the leaders have not reached an agreement on lifting sanctions or canceling the North’s nuclear and missile programs. Since then, Mr. Kim has pledged to strengthen his country’s war capabilities.

With the recent tests, “North Korea is looking to increase its influence in the upcoming negotiations” with Washington, said Lee Byong-chul, a North Korean expert at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies. Kyungnam University in Seoul.

Staring at its latest test of Mr. Wang’s visit to Seoul, North Korea also seemed to “express its displeasure with Beijing” for not providing enough financial aid during the global health crisis, he said. Mr. Lee said.

North Korea’s economy, already hit by years of devastating international sanctions, has suffered greatly from the decline in trade with China due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Motoko Rich contributed to the Tokyo reportage.

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