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Analysis

What Do New S. Korean Missile Tests Mean?

Monday 2 December 2019
What Do New S. Korean Missile Tests Mean?

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North Korea Fires Two Missiles after Warnings to US

North Korea Test-Fires 2 More Missiles

Alwaght- On Thursday, North Korea fired two short-range projectiles into the sea off its east coast in the fourth test of its new “super-large multiple-rocker launcher,” its official news agency reported. The new missile test, which drew serious criticism from the US, Japan, and South Korea, does not come long after similar test launches. The KN-25 launching system was initially unveiled in August with firing a missile. In September, again a new missile launch was made using the same system. Experts suggest that the missile fired from this launcher can travel a maximum of 380 kilometers long and 97 kilometers high. 

Targeted expansion of defense capability 

The test launch indicates that North Korea constantly improves the capabilities to fire simultaneously several projectiles fast from a mobile launcher. The experts note that this capacity enables the North’s missile crew, in case of a war, to deploy to a favorable site, fire missiles, and then quickly leave the area before the South Korean or American forces can move to strike them. 

Pyongyang is pushing to enhance its conventional military capabilities with low cost and high proficiency along with a focus on economic improvement and while the nuclear negotiations with Washington are in place. This new launching pad is reportedly the fruit of this strategy. Kim Dong-yub, a former South Korean navy officer, commented on the new development saying that the latest test reveals that the launching system is ready for mass-production and operational deployment. 

The interesting point is that within the initial tests, one in August and the other in September, of the KN-25 launcher, the missiles were fired respectively after 17 and 19 minutes. In a triumphant move, their missile experts minimized the firing interval to 3 minutes by the end of October. Even more triumphantly, on Thursday, only 30 seconds separated the two missile launches. Images circulated by the North Korean state media appeared to show that the missiles were fired from a four-tubed vehicle-carried launcher. The observes warn that the new short-range missiles pose a direct risk to neighboring South Korea as well as the American forces stationed in that country. 

Pressuring the US 

The timing of the new North Korean missile launch discloses important things. The test comes while in the US the White House was celebrating the Thanksgiving as the New Year arrives. The ceremony is held annually on the fourth Thursday of November. Pyongyang made its missile tests in the past in the US important holidays. The first successful Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) of the North was tested on July 4, the day in which the US marks its independence. 

Clearly, the messages of the missile firings are meant to Washington which according to the Pyongyang officials showed nothing but treachery in response to trust-building steps by North Korea. In August, North Korea’s UN envoy said that Pyongyang gained nothing from the talks with the US but treasury. 

Pyongyang officials in April 2018 said that they suspended nuclear and ICMB tests and delivered to the US the remains of the American soldiers’ bodies who were killed in the Korean War between 1950 and 1953. The moves were meant to build trust as the two sides embarked on nuclear dialogue to end the decades-long crisis in the Korean Peninsula. Pyongyang gained nothing in response, however. In August, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the strictest sanctions on North Korea will stay in place until they force denuclearization of the East Asian nation. The remarks triggered response from the other side in which North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho called Pompeo the “poisonous plant of the American diplomacy” and asked for his dismissal. North Korean UN ambassador also disparaged the US failure to show trust-building signs saying that Pyongyang handed over to Washington the remains of the dead American soldiers but received nothing in return from Donald Trump who advertises himself as a champion making a diplomatic triumph. 

The bilateral talks to settle the nuclear crisis took a course of failure as the Hanoi summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un in February failed to make any gains. The last round of the talks was held in October in Stockholm ending without any agreement. 

As the summits showed no sign of success, the North Korean leader issued a deadline to the US telling the Trump administration that it has a chance by the end of this year to change its strategy and ease the economic sanctions on the country. As the time moves fast, Pyongyang with its latest missile test sought to remind the White House officials of the ultimatum. 

Certainly, as the presidential election moves closer, Trump will seek to de-escalate the tensions with the North and dissuade it from testing more missiles to paint successful his criticized policy in dealing with Pyongyang. For example, Washington and Seoul delayed joint military drills planned for mid-November in a step eyeing to persuade Kim Jong-un to return to the negotiating table. Pyongyang, however, dismissed the show move by the White House. Reacting to the delay, North Korean FM in a statement asserted that his country is ready for talks but it is at the same time not afraid of a political impasse to prove to the White House that it is not the US that determines the rules of the game.

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North Korea Missile Launcher US Demilitarization

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