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North Korea caps month of tests with longest-range missile since 2017


According to North Korea’s state media, a tactical guided missile was launched at an undisclosed site in North Korea. This photo, released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency, (KCNA) on January 17, 2022, shows the launch.

KCNA | via Reuters

North Korea carried out its biggest missile test since 2017, sending an intermediate-range ballistic missile into space. It is believed that this missile launch brought the nuclear-armed nation closer to resume long-range testing.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff stated that a projectile thought to be one-way ballistic missile (2252 GMT), was fired from North Korea’s Jagang Province, toward the ocean off its east coastline.

The South Korean National Security Council (NSC) convened an emergency meeting, presided by Moon Jae-in. They stated that the test seemed to have involved an intermediate-range missile (IRBM), something North Korea hasn’t tested since 2017.

Moon stated that North Korea is now closer to removing its self-imposed moratorium regarding testing of long-range intercontinental missiles (ICBMs)

He pointed out that this month’s frenzy of missile launches was an omen of 2017’s increased tensions when North Korea had conducted multiple nuclear test and launched the largest missiles it could, some of which flew above Japan.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un stated that he does not accept the moratorium. The moratorium was intended to prohibit nuclear weapons testing and was first announced by Donald Trump in 2018. It has been the subject of a lot diplomacy, summits and diplomatic efforts.

North Korea’s leaders suggested this month they could restart those testing activities because the United States and its allies had shown no sign of dropping their “hostile policies.”

After Sunday’s launch, the U.S. military’s Indo-Pacific Command released a statement saying that “The United States condemned these actions” and urged North Korea to stop further destabilizing act.

According to a U.S. State Department spokesperson, the missile launch shows the threats posed by North Korea’s illicit weapons of destruction and ballistic rocket programs. The spokesperson also called for Pyongyang’s participation in “sustained” and substantive dialogue.

Bigger missiles

Although it is not clear if the IRBMs were part of Kim’s moratorium they have been tested ever since 2017.

The missile’s altitude is approximately 2,000 km. Hirokazu Matsuno (Japan Chief Cabinet Secretary) said separately that it flew for about 30 minutes and traveled 800km. ICBMs, on the other hand, have a range of more than 3500 miles. IRBMs usually have ranges 600-3,000 miles.

Experts in missile defense said that the data might indicate a test for an IRBM, such as Hwasong-12 which was tested last year or a brand new one.

On Twitter, George William Herbert (an adjunct professor at The Center for Nonproliferation Studies, and a missile consultant) stated that “Regardless of whether or not it’s an IRBM/ICBM, this missile is a strategic one of some kind and clearly different from the previous tests in January 2022 series to date.”

North Korea could have the busiest January ever with this launch missile programAnalysts believe that the nation is developing and expanding its capabilities in spite of strict United Nations Security Council resolutions banning ballistic missile testing. 

The latest launch included the testing of short-range missiles with their warheads, on Thursday and an upgraded long-range cruise missile systems on Tuesday.

Noh Kyusuk, Seoul’s Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs, called his U.S. counterpart Sung Kim. Both men condemned North Korea’s most recent missile launch.

Noh held another call with his Japanese counterpart, and agreed to work towards resumed dialogue with North Korea. According to South Korean government

“Ramping up the tests”

This test is less than one week ahead of opening the Winter Olympics in Beijing. North Korea is the main economic and political partner. Pyongyang stated that the Games would not be held due to COVID-19’s pandemic and its “hostile” forces.

Yang Uk (research fellow, Center for Foreign Policy and National Security) stated that Kim seems to be increasing tests to try to press Washington and Beijing on sanctions right before the Olympics.

Kim Jong Un made a speech in advance of the New Year calling for the enhancement of the military’s ability to use cutting-edge technology, at a moment when talks between the United States and South Korea are stalled. read more

As denuclearisation negotiations remain in limbo, North Korea has been testing a wide range of weapons types and launch sites. read more

Two launches of a North Korean “hypersonic missile” were made this month from Jagang Province. It could fly at high speed while maneuvering and flying at low altitudes. However, the Sunday ranges that were reported was longer and further than the earlier ones.

Matsuno declared that “the ballistic missile launch” and others before it were a threat to North Korea, the region, and the international community. We strongly condemn North Korea’s actions in this series of missile launches, which violate U.N. Resolutions.

South Korea’s NSC has condemned the missile launch as a violation and challenge to international peace efforts. The NSC used stronger language that previous tests.

According to Leif Eric Easley (a professor of international Studies at Ewha University, Seoul), the tests are intended to modernize North Korea’s military and boost national pride before several important North Korean holidays.

He said that the Kim regime listens to external conversations about its domestic flaws and is aware of South Korea’s increasing strength. It wants Washington and Seoul to remember that it is too expensive to try to overthrow it.