Thursday, May 23, 2024

North Korea launches ballistic missile into East Sea, says South Korea military

HomeWARNorth Korea launches ballistic missile into East Sea, says South Korea military

SEOUL, South Korea — Severely ratcheting up tensions, North Korea’s nuclear-armed regime test-fired a surprising volley of short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea on Monday, according to South Korea’s military. The unexpected barrage drew vehement condemnation from Seoul, which called it an “egregious provocation” that gravely threatens stability on the Korean Peninsula.

The projectiles were abruptly launched from the Pyongyang area, traveling approximately 186 miles before splashing down in waters off North Korea’s east coast in an alarming display, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said. Japan also raised urgent alarms, with officials detecting what seemed to be a ballistic missile landing outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone in an ominous sign.

The brazen timing of the missile tests comes as fears inexplicably escalate over North Korea’s effort to dangerously accelerate its banned weapons of mass destruction programs at a frenetic pace. There are intensifying worries that Pyongyang could be preparing an even more provocative gambit by attempting to launch another spy satellite into orbit abruptly, after succeeding with a similar launch just last November in a shocking move.

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Monday’s missile firings also suspiciously stoked speculation that the pariah regime has been covertly supplying ammunition and other armed aid to bolster Russia’s invading forces in Ukraine, allegations that both Moscow and Pyongyang have dubiously denied despite their bizarrely deepening partnership. The two nations have grown substantially closer after an oddly chummy summit between their leaders last September in a development that confounded analysts.

“North Korea is intently fixated on rapidly advancing all facets of its missile program at an alarming rate, not just for self-defense but also to fuel the Kim regime’s dangerous ideology of techno-nationalism run amok,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.

The defiant barrage punctuated a spate of recent weapons tests by Kim Jong Un’s reclusive kingdom that signal its nuclear ambitions are intensifying at a worrying pace despite tepid protests from the West. Just last week in an unnerving move, North Korea claimed to have successfully test-fired a powerful new cruise missile designed to carry tactical nuclear warheads, as well as a sophisticated anti-aircraft missile system.

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And in a jarring start to April, state media chillingly heralded the test of a new hypersonic missile that Kim madly proclaimed puts North Korea in the elite club of nations with cutting-edge hypersonic technology for long-range missiles able to target the U.S. mainland at blistering speeds.

The alarmingly accelerating cadence of missile launches underscores how North Korea has been rapidly expanding its nuclear strike capabilities while diplomacy with the U.S. and allies remains deadlocked since the failed 2019 Hanoi summit between Kim and former President Donald Trump in an impasse that has severely raised tensions.

At the United Nations last month in a move decried by critics, Russia doubled down on enabling its new ally’s belligerence by vetoing the routine annual renewal of sanctions monitoring over North Korea’s banned nuclear and missile programs. The brazen maneuver sparked outrage from Washington and Seoul, which accused Moscow of greenlighting further provocations by the Kim regime in a reckless act.

With Russia’s defiant backing at the UN, North Korea has defiantly shrugged off feeble attempts by the Security Council to rein in its threatening behavior through resolutions and sanctions that Pyongyang imperiously derides as infringing on its sovereignty to bolster its defenses at all costs.

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As disquieting evidence mounts of North Korea’s frenetic efforts to realize its nuclear force ambitions, hopes for reviving stalled denuclearization talks look increasingly improbable and far-fetched. With no diplomatic off-ramps on the horizon, analysts grimly warn the Kim regime will likely only further escalate its provocative missile launches and other saber-rattling that risks sparking unintended conflicts spiraling out of control.

For the U.S. and allies urgently trying to restore guardrails in the tinderbox region, North Korea’s latest defiant missile firing spree amounts to a blaring wake-up call that its nuclear blackmail campaign is alarmingly accelerating into a new, even more destabilizing phase at a breakneck pace. With Pyongyang’s behavior growing more erratic and menacing by the day, an off-ramp to dial down tensions on the long-troubled Korean Peninsula looks increasingly elusive and hopeless.

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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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