One day after Russian officials claimed North Korea had halted its ballistic missile testing as a part of the Chinese proposal for a mutual freeze of military activity, North Korea conducted what appeared to be yet another ballistic missile test.
“North Korea launched an unidentified ballistic missile eastward from the vicinity of Pyongsong, South Pyongan Province, at dawn today,” the South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said following the launch. Unconfirmed reports indicate that the Japanese Coast Guard saw the missile splash down in the Sea of Japan, within the nation’s exclusive economic zone.
This launch marks the end of nearly two months of relative quiet coming from Kim Jong Un’s North Korean regime. After months of rapid ballistic missile testing, today’s launch is the first since September 15th. U.S. and South Korean experts have been anticipating this test for days, as North Korea has been observed relocating potentially nuclear ballistic missile equipment leading up to the launch.
This launch was conducted earlier in the morning than most previous North Korean ballistic missile tests, indicating that it may not have been intended as a test of the platform itself, but rather of North Korea’s launch strategy. Relocating missile assets prior to the launch would seem to indicate that North Korea is preparing for the possibility of U.S. and allied reprisals to an offensive attack. Relocating missiles would make it more difficult for American military assets to target launch platforms with precision strikes, as the missiles would no longer be present at the locations last identified in satellite intelligence photos.
Immediately after the North Korean launch, South Korea’s military conducted a missile firing test of their own. Analysis of the trajectory of the North Korean missile had proven it posed no threat to allied territory, meaning the South Korean response provided not only an opportunity to hone skills for actual conflict, but to send a clear message to Kim’s regime regarding South Korea’s ability to respond in the event of an offensive launch.
While meeting with the South Korean Minister of Defense on Monday, Russia’s Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov claimed the pause in testing was the result of North Korea’s willingness to honor China’s proposed “freeze for freeze” of military activity in the region, though that claim failed to acknowledge North Korea’s trend of halting tests during the imperative harvest season, in order to focus resources on agriculture.
“If Pyongyang’s demonstrated restraint over the past two months was met with similar reciprocal steps on behalf of the United States and its allies, then we could have moved to the start of direct talks between the United States and North Korea,” Morgulov said.
This is the first ballistic missile test conducted by North Korea since President Donald Trump had the nation placed back on the list of state sponsors of terror, allowing the United States to further tighten sanctions on Kim’s aggressive regime.
Image courtesy of KCNA