The most powerful missile since 2017: North Korea confirms its launch, fears resumption of nuclear tests
Steph Deschamps / January 31, 2022
Pyongyang confirmed Monday that it has launched its most powerful missile since 2017, raising fears of renewed nuclear and intercontinental missile tests.
North Korea had never tested so many missiles in one month as with the seven tests conducted in January. The last major round of launches was in 2019, after negotiations between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump failed. An evaluation firing of the Hwasong-12 intermediate- and long-range ground-to-ground ballistic missile was conducted on Sunday. It confirmed the accuracy, safety and effectiveness of the device, currently in production, announced Monday, the North Korean state agency KCNA.
The latter claims that the test was conducted using the highest angle launch system out of concern for the safety of neighboring countries, and that the missile's warhead contained a camera. For South Korea, the North is following a similar path to that of 2017, when tensions were at their highest on the Korean peninsula. Pyongyang is close to breaking the self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Sunday.
A senior U.S. administration official shared this concern. It's not just what they did yesterday, but the fact that this follows a fairly large number of tests this month, he said. We obviously don't want to see further tests and we have asked the DPRK to refrain from further tests, he added.
The missile was fired from the northern province of Jagang, where North Korea has launched what it has described as hypersonic missiles in recent months. It reached a maximum altitude of 2,000 km and traveled about 800 km in 30 minutes before falling into the Sea of Japan, the South Korean General Staff said.
Since the inauguration of U.S. President Joe Biden in January 2021, Pyongyang has rejected the various proposals for dialogue made by Washington. And Kim Jong Un reaffirmed in December that his priority was to modernize the country's arsenal. The North Korean regime threatened on January 20 to resume its nuclear or missile tests, saying it was forced to do so by the hostile policy of the United States towards it.
With Pyongyang struggling economically, the leadership may be looking for quick profits, says Lim Eul-chul, professor of North Korean studies at Kyungnam University in Seoul. Kim Jong Un is addicted to advanced weapons, he says. According to this expert, North Korea is trying to strengthen its advanced weaponry to the point that the United States would be forced to surrender to his demands. He sees success in the military sector as the best weapon to restore his pride and elevate his status as a leader and that of the nation to the highest level, says Lim.