SEOUL – North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles off its east coast on Thursday in its sixth missile test this month, the South Korean military said.
North Korea started the year with a wave of missile tests, which heightened tensions at a sensitive time: China is preparing to host the Winter Olympics in Beijing next month, and South Korea is preparing for its presidential election on March 9.
The latest launch came two days after North Korea fired what South Korean defense officials said were two cruise missiles.
The two missiles flew 118 miles after being fired from Hamhung, a port city on the north-east coast, according to the South Korean military, which said its analysts studied the trajectory and other flight data to help determine what types of missiles were fired. fired.
The latest barrage of missile tests suggests that North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, is both advancing his program to modernize his country’s missile forces and trying to pull the Biden administration out of its diplomatic slumber and force Washington to engage with North Korea. on Mr. Kim’s conditions.
In the first two arms tests this month, conducted on January 5 and January 11, North Korea fired what it called hypersonic ballistic missiles with detachable sliding warheads, making them harder to intercept because they were not only designed to fly extremely fast, but also to change course during flight.
Repeated UN Security Council resolutions prohibit North Korea from developing or testing ballistic missile technologies or technologies used to manufacture and supply nuclear weapons. North insists that it exercises “its right to self-defense” and that missile tests are “part of its efforts to modernize its national defense capabilities.”
In 2017, North Korea fired three intercontinental ballistic missiles, claiming it was capable of targeting the continental United States with nuclear warheads. Mr. Kim then initiated diplomatic talks with President Donald J. Trump.
After their three meetings ended without agreement in 2019 on how the nuclear weapons program should be rolled back, or when the United States would lift sanctions against the country, the Nordics resumed testing mainly short-range ballistic missiles. ,
In late 2019, Mr. warned. Kim that he no longer felt bound by his self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile testing. During a meeting of the Politburo last week, he again suggested that his government could restart its test of long-range missiles and nuclear devices.
The significance of North Korea’s missile test
The Biden administration has so far taken no real steps to entice Mr Kim, other than to propose negotiations “without preconditions”, a lukewarm prayer that North Korea has rejected.
In the midst of the latest series of missile tests, Washington has once again called on North Korea for negotiations.
“We have made it very clear to Pyongyang,” Mark Lambert, the US Deputy Secretary of State for Japan and Korea, said on Wednesday. “We will go anywhere. We will talk about anything. We have no reservations.”
“We need to have a serious discussion about the nuclear disarmament of North Korea, and if North Korea is willing to do that, all sorts of promising things can happen,” he said.
North Korea’s latest launch came amid reports that its Internet service appeared to have been hit by another wave of disruptions in as many weeks, possibly caused by a so-called distributed denial-of-service cyber attack.
In North Korea, only a small group of elites have access to the global Internet. Its websites, all state-controlled, carry propaganda for Mr. Kim’s government and reports developments, such as its weapons test, which it wants the world and the North Korean people to be aware of.