North Korea has fired three short-range ballistic missiles toward its eastern waters in its latest weapons display. This comes a day after rival South Korea conducted a rocket launch related to its push to build a space-based surveillance to better monitor the North.
The launches on Saturday, December 31, 2022 add to North Korea’s total of about 70 ballistic missiles; including some eight intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) fired throughout the year.
This is the most ever missile launches made by the nuclear-armed Pyongyang which has officially announced plans to modernize its military capabilities in response to what it says is a provocation by South Korea and its key ally, the United States.
Many of the launches entailed nuclear-capable weapons designed to attack the U.S. mainland and its allies South Korea and Japan.
Tensions between the rival Koreas rose this week when South Korea accused North Korea of flying five drones across the tense border for the first time in five years and responded by sending three of its surveillance drones across the border on Monday in an unusual retaliation.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff confirmed the missile launches by North Korea and said their military was monitoring the situation.
“Our military maintains a full readiness posture while closely cooperating with the US and strengthening surveillance and vigilance.”South Korea Joint Chiefs of Staff
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that it detected the three launches from an inland area south of Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, on Saturday morning.
It said the three missiles traveled about 350 kilometers (220 miles) before landing in the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan. The estimated range suggests the missiles tested could target South Korea.
Japan’s Ministry of Defence also said the first ballistic missile was fired on Saturday morning shortly after 08:00am local time (23:00 GMT), the second was launched at approximately 08:14am (23:14 GMT), and a third missile took off a minute later.
All three missiles were fired from the suburbs of the capital Pyongyang and reached an altitude of 100km (62 miles) and flew for an estimated 350km (217 miles).
Later on Saturday, senior diplomats from South Korea, Japan and the United States jointly denounced the North’s launches after a phone call.
According to the South Korean and Japanese foreign ministries, they agreed to reinforce their deterrence against North Korea and work together to achieve the North’s denuclearization.
South Korean President Vows To Sternly Deal With Provocations By North Korea
South Korean President, Yoon Suk Yeol, has called for boosting his country’s air defense network and vowed to sternly deal with provocations by North Korea.
Since taking office in May, Yoon’s government has expanded regular military drills with the U.S. in the face of increasing North Korean nuclear threats.
On Friday, December 30, 2022, South Korea test- launched a solid-fueled rocket, a type of a space launch vehicle that it plans to use to put its first spy satellite into orbit in coming years.
Defense officials said it was a follow-up test of the country’s first successful launch of a solid-fuel rocket in March.
Meanwhile, this week, there has been a major ruling party meeting in Pyongyang, North Korea to review past policies and policy goals for 2023. It’s highly unusual for North Korea to test-launch a missile when it holds a key meeting.
Some observers opined that North Korea will likely publish details of the meeting on Sunday, January 1, 2023 which would carry Kim Jong Un’s vows to expand his nuclear arsenal and introduce sophisticated weapons in the name of dealing with what he calls U.S. hostility.