Tension mounts on the Korean peninsula after the North launches on Wednesday as a test two ballistic missiles just three days after testing a new cruise missile. From the south they responded by firing a missile from a submarine.
Pyongyang launched its two projectiles from Yangdeok (70 kilometers east of the North Korean capital), in the province of South Pyongyang, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). The projectiles flew about 800 kilometers and reached a maximum altitude of about 60 kilometers before falling into the East Sea (the name given to the Sea of Japan in the two Koreas).
The last time the regime fired a ballistic missile was at the end of last March, when it tested what appeared to be a new version of its KN-23 projectile, capable of tracing trajectories that were very difficult to intercept.
The UN punishes North Korea’s ballistic missile launches based on resolutions passed in response to its development of weapons of mass destruction.
A few hours later, and in an unusual gesture, Seoul announced that it had just launched a ballistic missile from a submarine (SLBM), a test conducted in the coastal county of Taean (about 100 kilometers southwest of Seoul), in apparent response to the North Korean test and witnessed by South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
The test was carried out successfully from a Dosan Ahn Chang-ho class submarine, the latest submersible model for the South Korean Navy.
The presidential office was limited to saying in a statement that the projectile flew the expected distance and hit the marked target “with precision”.
Seoul announced the launch of a ballistic missile from a submarine (SLBM). Photo EFE.
During an intervention before the officers present during the test, Moon assured that it was not carried out in response to the North Korean test.
“In any case, our enhanced missile capabilities can be a sure deterrent to North Korean provocations,” he added.
This is not actually Seoul’s first successful test of an SLBM, as military sources leaked to the media that a first successful test took place two weeks ago.
This makes South Korea in the eighth country with the capacity to launch SLBM, a list also made up of the US, Russia, China, India, the United Kingdom, France and North Korea.
The ability to fire SLBMs greatly expands the range of South Korea’s ballistic arsenal and makes it much more dangerous, as the mobile nature of the submarines makes launches difficult to detect.
Tension grows in the region
This Wednesday’s launches are preceded by last weekend’s North Korean test of a new type of long-range cruise missile and the aforementioned original test of a southern SLBM.
To this must be added the report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at the end of August warning that Pyongyang reactivated facilities this year to obtain nuclear fuel that can be used for bombs.
President Moon Jae-in (R) inspects the submarine test launch of South Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM). Photo EFE.
This arms escalation occurs at a time when the denuclearization dialogue remains stalled since the failed Hanoi summit in 2019, in which the US deemed North Korea’s disarmament offer insufficient and refused to lift sanctions.
Washington has insisted in recent months that it will meet with Pyongyang without preconditions “where and when” to try to reignite the talks, but at the moment it does not seem to have gotten a response from the Kim Jong-un regime.
At the same time, North Korea again broke telephone communications with the South in August after Seoul and Washington went ahead with their summer military exercises and has so far also rejected offers of dialogue and humanitarian assistance from the Moon government.
The missile tests today also coincided with the visit to Seoul of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who underlined precisely the importance of all the countries involved in the Korean peninsula reducing their military activities to “contribute to the peace and stability of the Korean peninsula.” .
Wang insisted on pointing out that “not only North Korea, but also other countries are carrying out military activities” in the region.