What we know about the missile exchange between North Korea, the United States and South Korea

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres denounces a “escalation”. South Korea and the United States launched several missiles on Wednesday (October 5) at targets at sea, the day after North Korea launched a ballistic missile that passed over Japan. This year, Pyongyangwhich is equipped with nuclear weapons, has stepped up its plans to modernize its armaments. The UN Security Council will meet on Wednesday about this topic. Franceinfo takes stock of the situation.

A North Korean missile flies over Japan, the first since 2017

It flew a distance of approximately 4,500 km, at an altitude of 970 km. On Tuesday, October 4, North Korea launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) that flew over Japan. Tokyo confirmed the shooting, activating – unusually – a public alert system and asking residents of two northern regions of Japan to take refuge if possible. According to experts and senior officials, the missile is a nuclear-capable Hwasong-12.

Pyongyang’s last missile launch on Japan dates back to 2017, at the height of the period of ‘fire and fury’ during which North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and then US president Donald Trump exchanged insults.

“This is an act of violence that follows the recent repeated ballistic missile launch. We strongly condemn it.”, reacted the Japanese prime minister, Fumio Kishida. Seoul also called the shot a “provocation” violate “clearly the universal principles and standards of the United Nations”.

South Korea and the United States react with missiles launched into the sea

In the process, Washington promised a response “robust” in this shot, to reiterate “constant commitment” of his country to his Asian allies, Japan and South Korea. On Tuesday, South Korean and American fighters conducted precision strike exercises for the first time, with two fighters dropping bombs on a virtual target in the Yellow Sea. South Korean F-15K.

On Wednesday, the South Korean and US armies each launched two ATACMS short-range ballistic missiles “to accurately hit a virtual target” in the Sea of ​​Japan. Objective, according to a statement from the South Korean general staff: to show “that we are able and ready to neutralize the origin of the provocation by maintaining a position of constant surveillance”.

Seoul, however, confirmed the failed launch of a fifth Hyunmoo-2 short-range ballistic missile, which crashed to the ground shortly after launch. The missile warhead did not explode and no one was injured, according to the Korean General Staff. But a large fire broke out and caused panic in the city of Gangneung on South Korea’s east coast.

North Korea intensifies the modernization of its armaments

North Korea, which is subject to UN sanctions for its weapons programs, stepped up its modernization this year. Last week it launched four short-range ballistic missiles. Pyongyang generally tries to maximize the geopolitical impact of its trials by choosing the moment that seems most appropriate to it.

“North Korea always starts with a low-level provocation and gradually raises the level to attract global media attention.goes to AFP Go Myong-hyun, a researcher at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies. By launching the missile on Japan, they show that their nuclear threat is not just aimed at South Korea. “ The shot that flew over Japan “It could theoretically reach the island of Guam in the Pacific. An American island where the navy is extremely present. This shot is therefore a message sent to the United States rather than Japan”confirms on franceinfo Antoine Bondaz, director of the Korea program at the Foundation for Strategic Research and professor at Sciences Po.

“Over the past four years, the country has developed precision attack capabilities capable of piercing Korean and Japanese missile defenses. It is North Korea’s desire to change the balance of power in the region.”

Antoine Bondaz, North Korean specialist

to franceinfo

Leader Kim Jong-un prepares to carry out another nuclear test

South Korean and American officials have been warning for months that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is preparing to conduct another nuclear test. This could take place after the Chinese Communist Party congress starting on October 16, several senior officials in the US Asia-Pacific command said this weekend.

“Despite today’s missile launch (…), North Korea’s intention to conduct a nuclear test will remain unchanged”Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies, told AFP. “Pyongyang is likely to ridicule today’s missile launch, especially since one of the launches failed.”added Wednesday of South Korean and US launches.

Pyongyang, which in September revised its legislation to make its status as a nuclear power “irreversible”, has tested the atomic bombs six times since 2006. The latest and most powerful test came in 2017, with a power estimated at 250. kilotons. The fact that North Korea has a nuclear weapon is all the more worrying because, unlike other nuclear powers, the Pyongyang regime does not view this type of weapon as a deterrent that will never be used.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has invited Pyongyang “resume the dialogue” in order to achieve “full and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula”.

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