Pyongyang admitted on Sunday having fired an intercontinental ballistic missile the day before, saying that this “surprise” exercise, carried out as a sign of warning to Seoul and Washington, showed its capabilities of “nuclear counter-attack”.
Renewed tensions between the two Koreas. Pyongyang confirmed on Sunday (February 19th) that it had fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) the day before, saying the “surprise” exercise demonstrated its “deadly nuclear counterattack” capabilities.
In response, the South Korean military said it had organized joint aerial maneuvers with the United States, mobilizing stealth aircraft and at least one American B-1B long-range bomber.
“The exercise demonstrated the timely and immediate deployment of U.S. extended deterrence assets on the Korean Peninsula,” testifying to the “overwhelming strength” of the allies, the South Korean Defense Ministry said in a statement. .
Japan also conducted a joint military exercise with the United States on Sunday, the Japanese Defense Ministry said.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ordered a surprise “launch exercise” at 8 a.m. local time (2300 GMT Friday) on Saturday. A Hwasong-15 missile was then fired from Pyongyang airport during the afternoon, according to the state agency KCNA. The first test of a Hwasong-15 was conducted by Pyongyang in 2017.
Seoul had claimed to have detected the launch of an ICBM on Saturday at 5:22 p.m. local time (0822 GMT) which Tokyo said flew for 66 minutes before falling into its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and which, according to its observations , would be able to hit the American continent.
Pyongyang hailed the trial – the country’s first for seven weeks – which it said demonstrates “the effective (combat) capability of ICBM units, capable (of carrying out) a mobile and powerful counterattack”, KCNA reported.
The launch is “clear evidence” of the reliability of Pyongyang’s “powerful physical nuclear deterrent”, the agency added.
He came as Seoul and Washington prepare to conduct a simulation exercise, to be held next week in the US capital, to discuss what to do if Pyongyang uses nuclear weapons. .
North Korea threatened on Friday to react with “unprecedented” force to the upcoming US-South Korean maneuvers, seeing in them preparations for an armed conflict and the cause of a deterioration of the security situation on the Korean peninsula.
Relationships at rock bottom
According to US-based security expert Ankit Panda, Saturday’s shooting is of considerable significance because it “was ordered the same day, so it’s not a traditional ‘trial’, but a ‘an exercise”.
“We should expect to see additional exercises of this type,” he told AFP.
Park Won-gon, a professor at Ewha University, said this is the first time Pyongyang has provided a detailed account from firing order to launch.
“The clear indication of Kim Jong-un’s order is significant,” he said. This trial “shows that these weapons are all deployed for real combat and ready to be launched at any time.”
For Soo Kim, a former CIA analyst, the nine hours that elapsed between the leader’s order and the shooting constituted “a long time”. She said Pyongyang could face “greater challenges” if it launched under “realistic” conditions.
Relations between Pyongyang and Seoul are already at their lowest level in years. In 2022, the North called its status as a nuclear power “irreversible” and Kim Jong-un called for “exponential” growth in the production of armaments, including tactical nuclear weapons.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol has, in response, sought to strengthen cooperation with the United States, his key ally in the field of security, pledging to increase joint military exercises and improve the Washington’s expanded deterrence offer, including through nuclear means.
On Sunday, Pyongyang’s spokeswoman and sister of its leader, Kim Yo-jong, said it was these measures taken by Seoul and Washington that “constantly endanger” the peninsula and deteriorate its “stability”, according to KCNA.
“I warn that we will monitor every movement of the enemy and engage the corresponding, very powerful and overwhelming countermeasure against all such movements hostile towards us,” she added.
External crises to overcome internal difficulties
This shooting as well as these declarations of Pyongyang seem to announce “the beginning of high intensity provocations on the part of North Korea”, estimates for AFP Park Won-gon, professor at the university Ewha.
“What’s different from 2022 is that last year their rationale was that the launches were part of their five-year military plan,” he describes, adding, “Now they are making it clear that they (will face ) in the United States and South Korea.”
According to Park Won-gon, the increased aggressiveness of Pyongyang could indicate a worsening of its situation on the national level. South Korean officials recently signaled that the country could face severe 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 population by insisting on the US-South Korean threat is a classic North Korean attitude.”
Source: France 24