Missile tests by North, South Korea fan tensions on peninsula
Seoul tests 1st submarine-launched ballistic missile hours after Pyongyang fires 2 ballistic missiles
Tensions have escalated dramatically on the Korean Peninsula after both Pyongyang and Seoul test-launched ballistic missiles just hours apart on Wednesday.
Shortly after North Korea fired two ballistic missiles into the East Sea, South Korea announced that it successfully tested its indigenous submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).
Following the underwater launch, South Korea has become only the seventh country in the world to possess an SLBM, the country’s presidency said, according to a report by Yonhap News Agency.
The missile was fired from a 3,000-ton-class submarine and flew a set distance before precisely hitting a designated target, the report said.
“Possessing SLBM is very meaningful in terms of securing deterrence against omnidirectional threats and it is expected to play a big role in self-reliant national defense and establishment of peace on the Korean Peninsula, going forward,” read a presidency statement.
Just hours earlier, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) detected two short-range missiles fired from “central inland areas” of North Korea.
The JCS said the South Korean military “maintains a full readiness posture in close cooperation with the US,” fanning fears of a regional arms race.
North Korea also carried out a test of its new long-range cruise missile over the weekend.
The sudden escalation comes as the already fraught relations between Seoul and Pyongyang have been further strained by last month’s joint military drills by the US and South Korea.
With the diplomatic push to strip North Korea’s nuclear weapons faltering, Pyongyang has pressed ahead with missile tests this year.
It conducted a cruise missile test just hours after US President Joe Biden took office in January, following that by unveiling a new tactical short-range ballistic missile in March.
Warnings by the Biden administration were met by a rebuke from North Korea, saying that Washington might face “undesirable happenings” if it fails to end its “habitual hostility.”
On Tuesday, Sung Kim, Washington’s special envoy for North Korea, renewed calls for dialogue and said Washington has no hostile intent toward Pyongyang.
Following Wednesday’s test launch by North Korea, the US Indo-Pacific Command said the “event does not pose an immediate threat to U.S. personnel or territory, or to our allies.”
However, it said the launch highlights the “destabilizing impact” of North Korea’s “illicit weapons program.”
Washington’s commitment to the “defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan remains ironclad,” the statement added.
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