North Korea fired a suspected ballistic missile Saturday, Seoul’s military said, continuing this year’s record-breaking blitz of weapons tests with a launch just days before South Korea’s presidential election.
From hypersonic to medium-range ballistic missiles, Pyongyang test-fired a string of weaponry in January and last week launched what it claimed was a component of a “reconnaissance satellite” — although Seoul described it as another ballistic missile.
Instead of diplomacy, Pyongyang has doubled-down on Kim’s drive to modernise its military, warning in January that it could abandon a self-imposed moratorium on testing long-range missiles and nuclear weapons.
Japan also confirmed the launch, saying the missile had flown “at a maximum altitude of approximately 550 kilometres and a distance of approximately 300 kilometres,” Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said.
The North’s sabre-rattling comes just four days before South Korea votes for a new president, with the tests seemingly a means of Pyongyang conveying its “discontent” with outgoing president Moon Jae-in, analysts said.
Pyongyang has clearly “decided to prioritise their own military agenda regardless of what South Korea thinks,” he added.
But if Moon’s ruling Democratic party lose on Wednesday, it could herald a shift in Seoul’s North Korea policy.
– Not Ukraine –
Ukraine, which emerged from the Cold War with sizeable Soviet-era nuclear weapons stocks of its own, gave up its arsenal in the 1990s.
“It’s yet another demand for Washington to abolish the so-called ‘hostile’ policies against Pyongyang,” he told AFP.
Domestically, North Korea is preparing to celebrate the 110th anniversary of the birth of late founder Kim Il Sung in April, which experts say Pyongyang could use as an opportunity to carry out a major weapons test.
“Pyongyang is likely to focus on testing its reconnaissance satellites and ICBMs until April,” said Cheong Seong-chang of the Center for North Korea Studies at the Sejong Institute.