On Sunday, North Korea conducted the launch of a short-range ballistic missile into the sea, as reported by South Korea. This action is seen as a potential act of defiance in response to recent developments by Washington and Seoul to strengthen their nuclear deterrence plans against North Korean threats.
The missile was reportedly launched from an area near Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, at approximately 10:38 p.m. It traveled a distance of 570 kilometers (354 miles) before landing in the sea. The Joint Chiefs of Staff in South Korea revealed that they are sharing the launch details with the United States and Japan for further analysis. Simultaneously, they remain vigilant against the possibility of additional North Korean military activities. The launch has been criticized by South Korea as a “clear violation” of U.N. Security Council resolutions prohibiting North Korea from employing ballistic technologies.
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have escalated significantly, with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un aggressively advancing the expansion of the country’s nuclear and missile program. Kim has openly embraced an escalatory nuclear doctrine, allowing for the preemptive use of nuclear weapons. In response, the United States, South Korea, and Japan have strengthened their trilateral partnership in the region, conducting joint military exercises that Kim condemns as invasion rehearsals.
Following high-level security talks between American and South Korean officials in Washington, plans were made to update nuclear deterrence and contingency strategies. These plans also involve incorporating nuclear operation scenarios into their joint military exercises next summer to address evolving threats from North Korea.
In the aftermath of the missile launch, North Korea’s Defense Ministry issued a statement condemning the inclusion of nuclear operation scenarios in joint drills, considering it an open threat of potential nuclear weapon use against the North. The ministry pledged to prepare unspecified “offensive countermeasures” in response. Additionally, the ministry criticized the United States for deploying significant military assets to South Korea, describing it as a “reckless military threat” destabilizing the region.
Despite the missile launch, the North Korean ministry did not directly reference the event. South Korea seeks stronger assurances from the United States regarding the swift and decisive use of nuclear capabilities in the event of a North Korean nuclear attack.
North Korea has conducted over 100 missile tests since the beginning of 2022, capitalizing on distractions caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to accelerate its military nuclear program. These tests included intercontinental ballistic missiles with potential ranges to reach the U.S. mainland. North Korea also launched its first military reconnaissance satellite, described by Kim as crucial for monitoring U.S. and South Korean military activities, enhancing the threat of nuclear-capable missiles.
Concerns persist among Washington and its allies about potential collaboration between North Korea and Russia, fearing that Kim might supply munitions to support Russia’s war in Ukraine in exchange for technological assistance to upgrade North Korea’s nuclear-armed military.