North Korea provokes South Korea with missile launch

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North Korea fired a ballistic missile on Wednesday, the South Korean military said, just a week after leader Kim Jong Un pledged to build up Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal at the ‘fastest possible speed’ “.

The launch was the latest in a series of North Korean weapons tests against sanctions so far this year, and came after US and South Korean officials warned that Pyongyang was preparing to resume testing. nuclear.

“A ballistic missile fired by North Korea today at 12:03 p.m. (0303 GMT) from around Sunan toward the East Sea (Sea of ​​Japan) was detected,” the Joint Chiefs of Staff South said. -Korean in a statement.

“Currently, our military maintains readiness by tracking and monitoring associated movements for additional launches.”

The Japanese Coast Guard also said North Korea launched “potentially a ballistic missile”.

Read more: North Korea warns against nuclear attack on South Korea

The nuclear-armed state staged a dramatic return to long-range launches in March, testing at full range its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile – which may be able to reach the continental United States.

Those tests had been halted while Kim was meeting with then-US President Donald Trump for a diplomatic fight that collapsed in 2019.

Talks have since stalled, and despite biting sanctions, North Korea has doubled down on military modernization efforts.

More nuclear bombs?

Kim Jong Un said at a military parade last week that he would take steps to develop “our state’s nuclear forces at the fastest possible speed”, according to footage of his speech shown on state media. State.

“Nuclear forces, the symbol of our national strength and the core of our military might, must be enhanced in quality and scale.”

Repeated negotiations to convince Kim to abandon his nuclear weapons programs came to nothing.

“There is a good chance that they tested a missile that could be equipped with a nuclear warhead,” Ahn Chan-il, a specialist in North Korean studies, told AFP.

Kim also warned that he could “preemptively” use his nuclear force to counter hostile forces during a meeting with senior military brass last week.

The latest weapons test came just days before new South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who has vowed a tougher stance on the North, takes office next week.

“This could be a warning message for…Yoon,” said Hong Min of the Korea Institute for National Unification.

Read more: South Korea’s new president to crack down on North Korea

Yoon has hinted that he is only willing to talk about peace if North Korea confirms that it is ready to denuclearize – which Pyongyang will never agree to, Hong Min said.

“It could also signal Pyongyang’s position that it has no choice but to further upgrade its arsenal should Seoul and Washington decide to deploy strategic military assets to the South,” he added.

US President Joe Biden is due to visit South Korea in May.

Courtesy of AFP

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