North Korea fires missile as warning to Washington

North Korea fires missile as warning to Washington

North Korea confirmed on Sunday it had fired an ICBM the previous day as a warning signal to Washington and Seoul, and said the “surprisingly” successful exercise demonstrated its “deadly nuclear counterattack” capabilities.

• Also read: North Korean missile: White House condemns launch ‘strongly’

• Also read: The United States denounces “crimes against humanity” in Ukraine for the first time

• Also read: According to Tokyo, a North Korean ICBM has apparently crashed in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone

In response, the South Korean military said Sunday it had organized joint air exercises with the United States and mobilized stealth aircraft, at least one American long-range B-1B bomber.

“The exercise demonstrated the timely and prompt deployment of U.S. advanced deterrence assets in the Korean Peninsula,” testament to the “overwhelming strength” of the allies, South Korea’s defense ministry said in a statement.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered a surprise “launch drill” at 8 a.m. local time (Friday 2300 GMT) on Saturday. In the afternoon, a Hwasong-15 rocket was fired from Pyongyang Airport, according to the state agency KCNA. The first test of a Hwasong-15 was conducted by Pyongyang in 2017.

Seoul had claimed to have spotted the launch of an ICBM at 5:22 p.m. local time (8:22 GMT) on Saturday, which Tokyo said flew for 66 minutes before falling within its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and which it observed , could hit the American continent.

North Korea fires missile as warning to Washington

Pyongyang welcomed the trial — the country’s first in seven weeks — which KCNA said “demonstrates the effective (combat) capability of ICBM units capable of (carrying out) a mobile and powerful counterattack.”

The launch is “conclusive evidence” of the reliability of Pyongyang’s “powerful physical nuclear deterrent,” the agency added.

It came as Seoul and Washington were preparing to hold a simulation exercise in the US capital next week to discuss what to do if Pyongyang uses nuclear weapons.

North Korea on Friday threatened to use “unprecedented” force in response to upcoming US-South Korea maneuvers, saying it sees them as preparation for armed conflict and a cause of deteriorating security on the Korean peninsula.

new step

According to US-based security researcher Ankit Panda, Saturday’s shooting is significant because it was “ordered on the same day, so it’s not a traditional ‘trial’ but an ‘exercise’.”

“We should expect to see more exercises of this nature,” he told AFP.

Park Won-gon, a professor at Ewha University, said this is the first time Pyongyang has provided a detailed report from fire orders to launch.

“The clear reference to Kim Jong Un’s order is significant,” he said. This trial “shows that these weapons are all used for real combat and are ready for action at any time.”

For Soo Kim, a former CIA analyst, the nine hours that elapsed between the leader’s orders and the shooting was “a long time.” In her opinion, Pyongyang could face “greater challenges” if it conducted a launch under “realistic” conditions.

Relations between Pyongyang and Seoul are already at their lowest in years. In 2022, the North called its nuclear status “irreversible” and Kim Jong Un called for “exponential” growth in arms production, including tactical nuclear weapons.

In response, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol has sought to strengthen cooperation with the United States, its key security ally, by pledging to step up joint military exercises and Washington’s expanded offer on deterrence, especially by nuclear means.

On Sunday, Pyongyang spokeswoman and her leader’s sister Kim Yo Jong said it is these measures taken by Seoul and Washington that “put the peninsula in jeopardy at any moment” and worsen its “stability,” according to KCNA.

“I warn that we will monitor every movement of the enemy and take appropriate, very powerful and overwhelming countermeasures against all movements hostile to us,” she added.

food shortage?

This shooting, as well as these statements from Pyongyang, appear to herald “the beginning of high-intensity provocations by North Korea,” estimates AFP Park Won-gon, a professor at Ewha University.

“The difference from 2022 is that their justification last year was that the launches were part of their five-year military plan,” he describes, adding, “Now they clearly state that in the United States and the South ( face) become Korea.

Park said Pyongyang’s increased aggressiveness could indicate a worsening domestic political situation. South Korean officials recently signaled the country could face serious food shortages after several years of self-imposed pandemic isolation.

“North Korea always takes an intransigent approach and creates external crises (…) to overcome its internal difficulties. Uniting the populace by emphasizing the US-South Korean threat is a classic North Korean stance.”