SEOUL, South Korea
North Korea fired multiple cruise missiles into waters off its western coast on Tuesday, marking its third launch of such weapons this month. The provocative act showcases the country’s growing arsenal of weapons aimed at overwhelming its adversaries’ defenses.
South Korea Assesses the Situation
The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff announced that both South Korean and U.S. military forces are currently analyzing the launches, which were detected around 7 a.m. However, specific details such as the number of missiles fired, their range, and the method of launch have not been immediately disclosed.
Earlier Missile Tests and Kim Jong Un’s Ambitions
Prior to this recent launch, North Korea conducted tests on January 24 and January 28 for the Pulhwasal-3-31 cruise missile. This missile is specifically designed for submarine launches. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had previously expressed his ambition to build a nuclear-armed navy to counter rising external threats. It remains unclear whether Sunday’s water launch was conducted from an actual submarine or an underwater barge.
Escalating Tensions on the Korean Peninsula
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have reached their highest point in years. Kim Jong Un has expedited his weapons development program while making provocative nuclear threats against the United States, South Korea, and Japan.
In response, the United States and its Asian allies have strengthened their joint military exercises. These exercises increasingly include strategic assets such as aircraft carriers, long-range bombers, and nuclear-powered submarines. Additionally, countries in the region are refining their deterrence strategies. South Korea, in particular, seeks greater assurances from Washington regarding swift and decisive action in the event of a North Korean nuclear attack, including the potential use of U.S. nuclear weapons to defend its ally.
North Korea Continues Weapons Advancements
In a recent series of events, North Korea has showcased its determination to enhance its weapons capabilities, particularly in terms of targeting U.S. assets in the Pacific region. On January 14, the country conducted a test of a new solid-fuel intermediate-range missile, highlighting its efforts to advance its weaponry.
There are concerns that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may escalate pressures against his rivals, both in the United States and South Korea, especially given the advancements in his nuclear arsenal and strengthened ties with Russia. With an election year underway in both countries, Kim’s actions could have significant ramifications.
In addition to the weapons tests, there are growing worries in the South about a possible direct provocation from the North. Earlier this month, North Korea fired hundreds of artillery rounds into waters near the disputed western sea border. In response, South Korea conducted similar firings. Although no casualties or damage occurred during this exchange, it is important to note that past confrontations in this area have led to violent skirmishes and attacks.
During a passionate speech at Pyongyang’s parliament on January 15, Kim Jong Un declared a notable shift in North Korea’s objectives. He announced that the country was abandoning its longstanding pursuit of peaceful unification with South Korea and instead named the South as its most hostile foreign adversary. To solidify this stance, Kim ordered the rewriting of the North Korean constitution. He made it clear that North Korea has no intention of avoiding war and would use its nuclear weapons to destroy the South if provoked.
Experts suggest that North Korea’s actions are aimed at diminishing South Korea’s influence in international efforts to resolve the ongoing nuclear standoff. Furthermore, North Korea seeks to establish direct negotiations with Washington, leveraging its nuclear status and aiming to secure a release from U.S.-led sanctions from a position of strength.