North Korea and South Korea conduct dueling missile tests as arms race intensifies

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  • South Korea says it has successfully tested missile fired from submarine
  • North Korea fires two ballistic missiles at sea – South Korea
  • Japan condemns ‘scandalous’ North test as threat to peace
  • US calls N. Korea’s tests destabilizing, but no immediate threat

SEOUL, Sept. 15 (Reuters) – North Korea and South Korea tested ballistic missiles on Wednesday, the latest in an arms race that has seen the two countries develop increasingly sophisticated weapons as the efforts to start talks aimed at defusing tensions have proved unsuccessful.

South Korea has tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), becoming the first country without nuclear weapons to develop such a system. Read more

South Korean President Moon was witnessing this test firing when news of the North Korean launches, his first ballistic missile tests since March.

North Korea fired a pair of ballistic missiles that landed at sea off its east coast, according to South Korean and Japanese officials, just days after testing a cruise missile said to have nuclear capabilities.

North Korea has been steadily developing its weapons systems amid a standoff over talks to dismantle its nuclear and ballistic missile arsenals in return for US sanctions relief. The negotiations, initiated between former US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in 2018, have stalled since 2019.

“North Korea fired two unidentified ballistic missiles from its central interior region to the east coast, and South Korea and US intelligence services are conducting detailed analysis for further information The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a statement. .

The missiles were fired just after 12:30 p.m. (03:30 GMT), traveling 800 km (497 miles) at a maximum altitude of 60 km (37 miles), the JCS reported.

The U.S. Army’s Indo-Pacific Command said North Korea’s missile launches did not pose an immediate threat to U.S. personnel, territory or allies, but underscored the destabilizing impact of its program of illicit weapons.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga called the missile launch “scandalous” and strongly condemned it as a threat to peace and security in the region.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a daily briefing that China hopes “the parties concerned” will “hold back.”

‘THE STRONGEST KOREA’

South Korea has splurged on a range of new military systems, including ballistic missiles, submarines and its first aircraft carrier. It has a declared policy of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.

The arms race accelerated under Moon for a number of reasons, including his desire for more autonomy in foreign policy, his reluctance to rely on the United States after Trump’s presidency and the developments. military in North Korea and China, said Ramon Pacheco Pardo, a Korean expert. at King’s College London.

“South Korea would face many political and legal obstacles to developing nuclear weapons, both internal and external,” he said. “So he will develop all other capabilities to deter North Korea and show who the stronger Korea is.”

SLBM test officials announced the development of several other advanced missiles, including a supersonic cruise missile and a ballistic missile with a larger warhead.

People watch a TV broadcast file of a report on North Korea firing what appeared to be a pair of ballistic missiles off its east coast in Seoul, South Korea on September 15, 2021. REUTERS / Kim Hong -Ji

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Moon cited the “asymmetric capabilities” of the nuclear-weaponized North as the reason South Korea has developed better missiles.

“Boosting our missile capability is exactly what is needed to deter North Korea’s provocation,” he said, stressing that the SLBM test had been planned and was not in response to northern launches.

Unlike the South, North Korea’s ballistic missile systems have been banned by UN Security Council resolutions.

In November 2017, North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the whole of the United States and declared that it had become a nuclear power. Since then, he has mainly focused on testing short-range missiles and rockets.

North Korea said this year it was looking to miniaturize nuclear warheads, which could potentially be mounted on tactical missiles.

“North Korea continues to prioritize military modernization,” said Leif-Eric Easley, professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.

‘BIG MEANING’

The latest launch came as the foreign ministers of South Korea and China held talks in Seoul amid concerns over North Korea’s testing and stalled denuclearization negotiations. Read more

North Korea said it had successfully tested a new long-range cruise missile last weekend, calling it “a strategic weapon of great importance”. Analysts say the weapon could be its first cruise missile with nuclear capability. Read more

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, when asked about cruise missile testing, said all sides should work to promote peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

“Not only North Korea but other countries are carrying out military activities,” he told reporters. “We must all make efforts to encourage the resumption of dialogue.”

In a meeting with Wang on Wednesday, Moon asked for China’s support to resume dialogue, saying North Korea had not responded to South Korean and US offers for talks or engagement such as the humanitarian aid, said Moon’s spokesperson.

Nuclear envoys from South Korea, Japan and the United States also met in Tokyo this week. Read more

US envoy Sung Kim said on Tuesday that the United States had no hostile intentions towards North Korea and hoped it would respond positively to calls for talks.

The United States wants North Korea to give up its nuclear and missile programs in exchange for sanctions relief. North Korea refused.

Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; additional reporting by Ritsuko Ando in Tokyo and Emily Chow in Beijing; edited by Lincoln Feast, Robert Birsel

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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