A recap on what has been going on in Asia-Pacific as of late.

North Korea and its ‘Missile Testing’ Tantrums

South Korea and its allied countries remain on high alert, especially recently after North Korea ramped up its missile live-firing tests. Since October began, Pyongyang has already launched four ballistic missiles, increasing its total firing to at least 30 this year alone. This is the most missile firing the communist country have done since 2017, with officials agreeing that this could be a forewarning of Pyongyang’s soon-to-resume nuclear testing after five years of pause.

Early Sunday, North Korea fired two ballistic missiles again, marking the seventh in the last two weeks. Japan’s state minister of defense told reports that the recent firing, which took place around 1:47 (16:47 GMT) for the first one and subsequently six minutes later for the second projectile, has reached an altitude of 60 miles and covered about 218 miles near Tokyo’s exclusive economic zone. While authorities have yet to determine the type of projectile Pyongyang fired, some speculate that it could be a submarine-launched ballistic missile.

Sunday NK Missile Testing
Japan’s NHK TV Channel has interrupted its signal to transmit a speech by Kim Jong-un related to the last missile launched by North Korea on Sunday. (Image source: Twitter)

Meanwhile, the US military continued to coordinate closely with allies and partners surrounding the hostile country, including Tokyo and Seoul, emphasizing how to destabilize the impact should North Korea resume its nuclear arms and ballistic missile programs. However, despite the latest consecutive launches, it reassured that this does not threaten the US and its Asia-Pacific allies.

“We are aware of the DPRK’s ballistic missile launch today, including that it overflew Japan. We are consulting closely with Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK), as well as other regional allies and partners, to address the threats posed by the DPRK,” said the US Indo-Pacific Command in a statement released earlier last week. “The United States condemns these actions and calls on the DPRK to refrain from further unlawful and destabilizing acts. While we have assessed that this event does not pose a threat to US personnel, or territory, or to our allies, we will continue to monitor the situation. The US commitments to the defense of Japan and the ROK remain ironclad.”

The recent series of “serious provocations” began on September 25, when Pyongyang fired two unidentified ballistic missiles in its eastern sea shortly after the arrival of the US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and its strike group in South Korea for joint military exercises. Washington, Tokyo, and Seoul concurred with Pyongyang’s continuous missile and nuclear testing as a threat to peace and security in the region and as an act of defiance of the United Nations sanctions.

Reuters previously reported, on the other hand, that North Korea justified its Saturday firing as self-defense against the US military threat and not intending to harm its neighbors. The report referred to the statement released via state media KCNA, “Our missile tests are a normal, planned self-defense measure to protect our country’s security and regional peace from direct US military threats,” adding that it “did not pose any threat or harm to the safety of civil aviation as well as the safety of neighboring countries and regions, by a full consideration of civil aviation safety in advance.”

To halt this series of provocations, the US announced on Friday that it would be imposing new sanctions against North Korea, targeting three of its fuel procurement network, including Singapore-based Kwek Kee Seng, Taiwan-based Chen Shih Huan and Marshall Islands-registered company New Eastern Shipping Co Ltd. Moreover, these companies were also accused of breaking the UN sanctions of cutting fuel trade with Pyongyang, having to “repeatedly circumvent restrictions … often through transfer from ship to ship at sea,” Reuters reported.