It was a blitzkrieg provocation carried out within 9 hours of the conversation. North Korea fired another missile into the East Sea on the 14th. It is already the third military action in ten days. When the Joe Biden administration took out the first sanctions card in North Korea’s armed protests, it officially declared a ‘strong versus strong’ confrontation, saying, “We will fight sanctions with missiles.” Not only has the structure of the strained relationship between North Korea and the United States hardened, the situation on the Korean Peninsula, including inter-Korean relations, is more likely to freeze further.
The Blue House immediately held a National Security Council (NSC) meeting to express “strong regret”, but again did not use the words “denunciation” or “provocation” this time.
Estimated KN-23 improved version… “Performance improvement seems to have been checked”
The Joint Chiefs of Staff said, “About 2:41 and 52 pm, two presumed short-range ballistic missiles were detected that were launched from the area around Uiju in North Pyongan Province into the eastern sea to the northeast.” The projectile’s flight distance was about 430 km and the altitude was 36 km. The maximum speed was measured at Mach 6 (7,344 km/h).
For now, the possibility of an improved KN-23 called the ‘North Korean version of Iskander’ is strong. On March 25 of last year, North Korea first introduced the improved version of the KN-23, which increased the warhead weight to 2.5 tons compared to the past. It was the first time that a missile platform using a train was used. Therefore, this time too, it may have mobilized a new platform by surprise.
The KN-23 is known to be difficult to detect and intercept because its flight trajectory is not constant due to its characteristic ‘pull-up maneuver’, in which it flies horizontally in the descent phase and then rises sharply again. However, the military authorities confirmed that “there were signs related to the launch, so we maintained a readiness posture and caught it with our detection assets.”
If the analysis of the military authorities is correct, it seems to be a measure of rechecking the performance of existing missiles. A military official said, “The purpose is to improve the accuracy of the already disclosed ballistic missiles.” This means that it is not a new model like a hypersonic missile. The fact that North Korea fired two shots in a row also adds strength to this observation. When testing a new weapon, usually only one shot is used.
A ‘political provocation’ aimed at the US … North America melee is inevitable
Even though North Korea’s technological advances are not clear, the urgent launch of a ballistic missile proves the fact that it was a ‘political provocation’ with a thorough focus on the United States. Just looking at the fact that the launch time is ‘daytime’. Previously, projectiles were usually tested early in the morning, including hypersonic missiles on the 5th and 11th. There is also precedent. The last time North Korea conducted a missile test in the afternoon was September 15 last year (12:34 pm, 12:39 pm). It was an hour and a half before the ceremony to observe the South Korean military’s submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) underwater launch under the observation of President Moon Jae-in. This time, it is interpreted that the unscheduled test launch was haste to show the will to respond immediately to the pressure of the US administration, Joe Biden, who placed sanctions on six North Korean nationals involved in weapons development on the 12th (local time).
As a result, North Korea-U.S. relations cannot avoid a melee battle of sanctions and provocations for the time being. North Korea’s will to confrontation is also felt in that it moved to ‘action’ as soon as it threw out ‘words’. The launch took place 8 hours and 40 minutes after the release of a statement by a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman (6:03 a.m.) saying, “If (the United States) takes a confrontational stance, we will respond more strongly and clearly.” Hong Min, a research fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification, analyzed, “Even if the US protests, it can be read as a ‘counter-action’ provocation or ‘stashing’ strategy to imprint North Korea’s justifications and principles.”
Of course, the ‘negotiable room’ did not disappear. North Korea did not cross the ‘red line’ set by the US in terms of range and speed on that day. It indirectly indicated the intention that the crisis index was raised, but there was no intention of direct confrontation. Park Won-gon, a professor of North Korean studies at Ewha Womans University, said, “It’s a calculation to put pressure on the Biden administration through speed warfare while avoiding high-intensity provocations such as intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).”
靑 “strong regret” repeated… more difficult dialogue logic
After holding an emergency meeting of the Standing Committee, the NSC focused on “North Korea’s prompt response to dialogue” despite “strong regret at North Korea’s successive missile test launches”. The Blue House used the same expression on the 11th. However, given that the US has been patient with North Korea’s hypersonic missile launch and imposed sanctions, there are many prospects that the government will have no choice but to keep pace with the Biden administration’s response to North Korea to some extent.
A high-ranking government official said, “Not only the working group dealing with the North Korean nuclear issue, but also relevant ministries are working closely with the US and Japan.
Seung-Im Jeong reporter [email protected]
Kim Min-soon reporter [email protected]
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