In the aftermath of the hypersonic missile race of the United States, China, and Russia, the East Asian hermit country North Korea has launched the biggest missile tests since 2017 to show it is still a threat to its rival countries.

In case you haven’t noticed, Russia, China, and North Korea all seem to be trying to get the attention of the Biden administration lately.

Led by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) named Hwasong-12, which was first revealed in 2017, had range upgrades since its last test in September 2017. The missile test was highly controversial as it flew over Hokkaido, Japan, with a total distance traveled of 3,700km.

This recent test, which launched from Jagang, North Korea, at 7:52 am local time, was said to be using the highest angle launch system of the regime, taking an unusual trajectory of 1,200 miles, almost twice the apogee when compared to 2017’s test of only 770 km. It landed 800 km, off Japan’s coastline.

The missile itself, the Hwasong-12, is not a new IRBM. It was developed nearly four years ago, featuring a single main engine with four vernier thrusters to have more control over maneuverability, stability, and altitude control. The missile is estimated to have a maximum range of 3,700km with a 650kg payload. Its more powerful brother, the Hwasong-15, has been said to be capable of reaching the United States mainland, having a range of over 13,000 km with a 1,000kg payload.

Apart from this, intelligence has reported that North Korea has also developed a new Pukguksong-class submarine capable of launching a ballistic missile and new hypersonic technology for more accurate targeting and mobility with their arsenal of missiles.

With former President Donald Trump meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in 2018 to discuss denuclearization and a complete shutdown of its nuclear program, and with talks at a virtual standstill for nearly three years, it was no surprise that the regime returned to develop his nuclear program.

Former US President Donald Trump with North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in pictured outside the Freedom House at the Korean Demilitarized Zone (Wikimedia Commons). Source:
Former US President Donald Trump with North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in pictured outside the Freedom House at the Korean Demilitarized Zone (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Experts stated that the launch itself might not have been for Biden as well. Another theory states that it is to intimidate South Korean presidential candidates as the south prepares for their presidential elections in March. Furthermore, this may be for advertisement purposes as it also aims to sell these weapons to potential buyers around the globe. It may also be for domestic purposes to improve the military’s morale and show its citizens of their own country’s military strength. Given that the normally secretive regime has released numerous videos and photos of the launch, it seems most likely its a PR stunt by the regime.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in condemned the testing as it violated United Nations Security Council resolutions against North Korea. In one of Moon’s most aggressive stances against Kim in recent years, he stated that Pyongyang should immediately stop these tests as it creates unwanted tension amid diplomatic efforts to resolve the problem. The US Indo-Pacific Command echoed these sentiments, stating that Kim should stop these missiles tests. However, it also stated that these acts are not causes of concern as it does not pose an immediate threat to the United States.

Time will tell how the Biden Administration will tackle the nuclear problems the North Korean leader poses. The US did impose unilateral sanctions on North Korean and Russian individuals and firms over the recent missile launches in 2022. Senior officials over at Washington have responded to the tests, stating that it is concerned over the tests and is determined to take a diplomatic approach to promote regional stability within the region.