North Korea shoots ballistic missile into air
North Korea has launched a “unidentified missile,” according to South Korea’s military, which was reported early Sunday. This would be Pyongyang’s eighth launch this year, after a month of relative peace on the Korean peninsula during the Beijing Olympics.
Following a string of provocative missile launches last month, Pyongyang carried out a record-breaking flurry of weapons tests, including the launch of its most powerful missile since 2017, when leader Kim Jong Un taunted then-US president Donald Trump with a series of provocative missiles.
Japan also verified the launch on Sunday, with a spokesperson for the defense ministry informing AFP that a ballistic missile was shot from North Korea, but he did not specify how many were fired.
High-profile discussions between Trump and Kim ensued, but they came to a grinding halt in 2019.
Since then, negotiations with the United States have come to a halt, and the country’s economy has suffered as a result of international sanctions and a self-imposed coronavirus quarantine.
In recent months, Pyongyang has increased its emphasis on military development, announcing that it may lift a self-imposed moratorium on long-range missile and nuclear weapons testing.
According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “North Korea launched an unidentified missile eastward,” without providing any additional specifics.
Japan also verified the launch on Sunday, with a spokesperson for the defense ministry telling AFP that “possible ballistic missile(s)” were shot from North Korea, but he did not specify how many were fired.
In response to a “possible ballistic missile presumably fired from North Korea,” Japan’s coastguard issued a warning to ships in the area.
During the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, North Korea halted its nuclear and missile tests, observers believe, presumably out of respect for its sole major ally China.
However, with the international world preoccupied with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, many commentators predicted that North Korea would take advantage of the chance to resume nuclear testing.
When the news of North’s launch emerged, Japan’s foreign minister, Masayoshi Abe, was speaking on live television about Ukraine.
“This situation in Ukraine is not something that stays just in Ukraine or in Europe. But it could potentially affect the entire world, or Indo-Pacific region or in East Asia in our view,” he said.
In reaction to Russia’s aggressiveness, South Korea has announced that it would join international economic penalties against the country. As a vital US security partner, Seoul is carefully monitoring Washington’s response to Moscow’s aggression, according to local sources.
Once again, we find ourselves in an international crisis as North Korea continues to rattle its nuclear weapons as South Korea prepares to pick its new president on March 9.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who served a five-year tenure and regularly tried peace negotiations with the North during that time, has warned that the peninsula is on the verge of slipping back into crisis.
He said in a written interview with foreign media, including AFP, this month that “if North Korea’s succession of missile launches goes as far as lifting a moratorium on long-range missile testing, the Korean Peninsula may swiftly slip back into the situation of crisis we encountered five years ago.”
The dialogue between the United States and North Korea remains frozen.
Under Trump’s replacement, Joe Biden, the United States has frequently stated its openness to meet with officials from North Korea while also stating that it is committed to nuclear disarmament.
However, Pyongyang has so far rejected the offer, accusing the United States of pursuing “hostile” policies against the country.
On the domestic front, North Korea is preparing to commemorate the 110th anniversary of the birth of late founder Kim Il Sung in April, which many believe might be used as an opportunity to conduct a massive nuclear weapons experiment.
In recent satellite photographs, it seems as if the North is staging a military parade to display its weaponry in celebration of the important occasion.