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Wednesday, February 8, 2023

North Korea fires ballistic missiles

The launches come days after US and South Korean warplanes conducted joint drills

North Korea launched two ballistic missiles into the sea off its east coast on Friday, South Korea’s military said. The latest launches came days after American and South Korean air forces carried out joint drills over the Korean peninsula.

According to Japan’s defense ministry, the latest show of force by Pyongyang featured one apparent ballistic missile which landed outside of its exclusive economic zone. Meanwhile, South Korea’s military said it had detected two projectiles.

The firing also comes after Pyongyang launched two rockets on Sunday as part of the “important final-stage test” of its spy satellite program. On Monday, North Korean state media released photos purporting to be of South Korea’s capital, Seoul, and of the city of Incheon, claiming these had been taken by the test-piece satellite.

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The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) quoted a spokesperson for Pyongyang’s space agency as saying that the firing had confirmed the reliability of the onboard equipment “in the optimum environment simulating [a] space environment.” The official also revealed the missiles had reached an altitude of 500 kilometers and carried on board a panoramic camera with “20m resolution,” two multispectral cameras and a video transmitter, among other equipment.

According to the statement, a reconnaissance satellite could be launched into orbit as early as next April.

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Over the course of this year, North Korea has so far conducted more than 60 missile tests – setting a record. The majority of projectiles launched are believed to be ballistic missiles. However, in mid-October Pyongyang said it had fired two long-range cruise missiles that can allegedly carry tactical nuclear devices as the payload.

North Korea has argued many of its missile launches have come in response to joint US-South Korean military drills, which Pyongyang sees as a preparation for an attack.

The latest such exercises, featuring American nuclear-capable B-52 bombers and South Korean fighter jets were held over the Korean Peninsula on Tuesday.

Washington and Seoul have repeatedly condemned the North’s actions as destabilizing, while describing their own wargames as purely defensive in nature. The US, South Korea and Japan have also consistently called on North Korea to abandon further development of its ballistic missile and nuclear programs.

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Against this backdrop, South Korea’s Unification Minister Kwon Young-se suggested last month that the country could consider getting hold of nuclear weapons of its own.

Meanwhile, last Friday Japan unveiled a $320-billion five-year defense plan, its largest since World War II.

December 23, 2022 at 08:02PM
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