Seoul, South Korea:
North Korea fired a ballistic missile on Sunday, Seoul said, resuming a campaign of weapons testing after a month of relative calm during the Beijing Winter Olympics, and as the world focuses on the Ukraine.
Sunday’s launch is Pyongyang’s eighth so far this year, including the test-firing of its most powerful missile since top-level talks between leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump failed. in 2017. Diplomacy has languished ever since.
Despite biting international sanctions, Pyongyang has doubled its military development and last month threatened to drop a self-imposed moratorium on the firing of long-range and nuclear weapons.
Analysts had widely predicted that Pyongyang would seek to capitalize on the US distraction over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Thursday with new tests.
South Korea’s military said on Sunday it detected a ballistic missile fired toward the Sea of Japan at 7:52 a.m. local time (2252 GMT Saturday) from Pyongyang.
“The latest ballistic missile has a range of around 300 kilometers and an altitude of around 620 kilometers and the details are being closely analyzed by South Korean and US intelligence,” he added. Japan has also confirmed the launch.
South Korea’s presidential Blue House expressed “deep concern and grave regret”, and criticized the timing “when the world is making efforts to resolve the war in Ukraine”.
“With US interest shifted to Europe over the Ukraine crisis and the UN Security Council unable to function, Pyongyang is seizing the opportunity,” Shin Beom-chul told AFP. , a researcher at the Korea National Strategy Research Institute.
North Korea sees this as a perfect time to “continue its development of necessary weapons and strengthen its nuclear arsenal” in order to be recognized as a nuclear power, he added.
The recent pause in testing during the Beijing Winter Olympics was seen as a show of deference to China’s key diplomatic ally and economic benefactor.
The latest launch also comes as South Korea prepares to elect its next president on March 9.
Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said “the recent and rapid development of North Korean missile-related technology cannot be ignored from the perspective of the security of our country and this region.”
North Korea is reeling economically from biting sanctions on its weapons programs and a long coronavirus blockade, but continuing its “ambitious military modernization agenda” is a top priority, Leif-Eric said. Easley, a professor at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.
“The strength and legitimacy of the Kim regime has become tied to ever-better missile testing,” he added in emailed comments.
Incumbent South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who has repeatedly pursued peace talks with the North during his five-year term, has warned that the situation could easily escalate.
“If North Korea’s series of missile launches go as far as lifting a moratorium on long-range missile testing, the Korean Peninsula could instantly fall back into the state of crisis we faced there. is five years old,” he said in a written interview with the international press. , including AFP, this month.
Under Trump’s successor, Joe Biden, the United States has repeatedly declared its willingness to meet with North Korean officials, while saying it will seek denuclearization.
But Pyongyang has so far rejected the offer, accusing Washington of pursuing “hostile” policies.
Domestically, North Korea is preparing to celebrate the 110th anniversary of late founder Kim Il Sung’s birth in April, which experts say Pyongyang could use to conduct a major weapons test.
Recent satellite images suggest the North may be planning a military parade to show off its arms on this key anniversary.
“North Korea will be cautious about testing an intercontinental ballistic missile since it is the last remaining card that can put pressure on the United States,” Park Won-gon, a professor of science, told AFP. North Korean Studies at Ewha Womans University.
“Such a card only makes sense when you hold it in your hand.”
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