North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles on Wednesday, according to Seoul’s military, just days after Pyongyang’s previous test and before US Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to South Korea. The launches, part of North Korea’s record-breaking blitz of weapons tests this year, came after Seoul’s spy agency warned that Pyongyang was on the verge of another nuclear test.
The South Korean military announced it had “detected two short-range ballistic missiles fired from Pyongyang’s Sunan area.” The missiles traveled “approximately 360 kilometers (223 miles) at an altitude of 30 kilometers with a speed of Mach 6,” Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement, adding that the details of the launches were being investigated.
“Our military has strengthened monitoring and surveillance and is keeping maximum readiness in close coordination with the United States,” the statement continued. Japan acknowledged the launches as well, with deputy defense minister Toshiro Ino claiming that North Korea’s current series of missile tests were “unprecedented” in frequency.
“Repeated missile launches are intolerable,” he said. The US has also criticized the launches but has stated that it is open to negotiations with North Korea. The State Department spokeswoman said, abbreviating for Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, “These launches violate multiple UN Security Council Resolutions and constitute a threat to the DPRK’s neighbors and the international community.
“We are committed to a diplomatic strategy toward DPRK and encourage DPRK to participate in a conversation,” stated this official. North Korea conducted a test launch of a short-range ballistic missile on Sunday. Harris will go to Seoul on Thursday for a short visit. While there, she will go to the heavily fortified border between North and South Korea.
According to the White House, Harris’s trip, which follows a trip to Japan, is intended to emphasize the importance of the relationship with Seoul. Seoul’s most important security ally, with approximately 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea to help safeguard it from the North. Last week, the South Korean navy and the nuclear-powered USS Ronald Reagan worked together in the waters off the Korean peninsula.
Seoul’s hawkish new President, Yoon Suk-yeol, who took office in May, has increased joint drills, which they stress are strictly defensive – but North Korea perceives them as preparations for an invasion. For months, South Korean and US authorities have warned that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is planning another nuclear test.
Earlier Wednesday, Seoul’s spy agency reported Pyongyang appeared to have finished “a third tunnel at its Punggye-ri nuclear site,” according to MP Yoo Sang-bum, who was briefed by Seoul’s National Intelligence Service. Yoo thinks Pyongyang will do its next nuclear test between “China’s upcoming Communist Party Congress on October 16 and the US midterm elections on November 7.”.
North Korea, which is subject to various UN sanctions for its nuclear program, usually aims to maximize the geopolitical impact of its tests through precise sequencing. Since 2006, the isolated dictatorship has conducted six nuclear tests. Pyongyang said that its most recent and most powerful bomb was a hydrogen bomb. It is thought that this bomb had a yield of 250 kilotons.
The president’s office said Saturday that Seoul has detected evidence that the North is ready to launch a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), a weapon Pyongyang last tested in May. “Today’s launch shows that the North is aiming to acquire an advantage on peninsula by deploying a nuclear arsenal,” Kim Jong-dae of the Yonsei Institute for North Korean Studies told AFP.
He described the repeated tests as “a foreshadowing of Pyongyang’s aggressive posturing to come next month—with missile launches and a likely nuclear test.”
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