Pyongyang’s ballistic missile launch was a ‘warning’

(Seoul) North Korea confirmed on Sunday that it fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) as a warning to Washington and Seoul on Saturday, saying the “surprise” successful exercise demonstrates “its deadly nuclear counterattack capabilities.”

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has ordered a surprise “launch drill” for Saturday at 8 a.m. local time (Friday at 6 p.m. EST). According to the state news agency KCNA, a Hwasong-15 missile was launched from Pyongyang airport in the afternoon. Pyongyang conducted the first Hwasong-15 test in 2017.

South Korea’s military claimed to have detected the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Saturday at 5:22 p.m. local time (3:22 a.m. EST), which Tokyo claimed flew for 66 minutes before crashing into its Economic Zone. Based on his observations, an exclusive zone (EEZ) could strike the American continent.

The trial, the first in seven weeks, was hailed by North Korean authorities as demonstrating “the effective (combat) capability of ICBM units, capable (of carrying out) a mobile and powerful counterattack,” according to KCNA.

The launch is “clear evidence” of Pyongyang’s “powerful physical nuclear deterrent,” according to the agency.

He arrived as South Korea and the United States prepared to hold a simulation exercise next week in Washington to discuss what to do if Pyongyang launched a nuclear attack.

Pyongyang threatened on Friday to respond to upcoming US-South Korean manoeuvres with “unprecedented” force, viewing them as preparations for an armed conflict and the cause of a deterioration in the security situation on the Korean peninsula.

Another Step

According to Ankit Panda, a security expert in the United States, Saturday’s test is of considerable importance because the shooting “was ordered the same day, so it is not a traditional ‘test’, but an exercise”.
“We should expect more exercises of this type,” he told AFP.
This exercise appears to be “Kim’s way of telling the US and (South Korea) that his country is still improving its ballistic missile skills for possible use in a real-time scenario,” according to Soo Kim, a former CIA analyst.

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“Weapons are not just for display,” she told AFP, adding that the nine hours between Kim Jong-order un’s and the shooting is “a long time”. She claims Pyongyang will face “greater challenges” if it launches under “realistic” conditions.

Pyongyang-Seoul relations are already at their lowest point in years. In 2022, the North declared its nuclear status “irreversible,” and Kim Jong-un called for “exponential” growth in armament production, including tactical nuclear weapons.

In response, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol has pledged to increase joint military exercises and improve the expanded offer with the United States, its key security ally. Washington in terms of deterrence, particularly through nuclear means.

On Sunday, Pyongyang’s spokeswoman and sister of its leader, Kim Yo Jong, said it was these measures taken by Seoul and Washington that “are putting the peninsula in danger at every moment” and deteriorating its “stability”, according to KCNA.

“I warn you that we will monitor every enemy movement and engage in the corresponding, very powerful and overwhelming countermeasure against all such hostile movements,” she added.
Food scarcity?

This shooting, along with Pyongyang’s declarations, appears to herald “the beginning of high-intensity provocations on the part of North Korea,” according to AFP Park Won-gon, professor at Ewha University.

“What is different from 2022 is that last year their rationale was that the launches were part of their five-year military plan,” he describes, adding: “Now they are making it clear that they (will face) in the United States and South Korea.

According to Park, Pyongyang’s increased aggression could indicate a worsening domestic situation. Following several years of self-imposed pandemic isolation, South Korean officials have recently indicated that the country may face severe food shortages.

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To overcome internal difficulties, North Korea always takes an uncompromising approach and creates external crises. Insisting on the American-South Korean threat to unite the population is a classic North Korean attitude.

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