North Korea launched missiles towards its east on Sunday as the United States and South Korea completed a military exercise. The military action marks the country’s seventh launch in two weeks, the Associated Press reported, noting that two short-range ballistic missiles were fired.
The test came just hours after the U.S. and South Korea completed two-day naval drills off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula, the news outlet reported.
The office of Japan’s prime minister issued an emergency alert on Saturday and announced on Twitter that North Korea had “launched a suspected ballistic missile.”
[Emergency alert]North Korea has launched a suspected ballistic missile. More updates to follow.
— PM’s Office of Japan (@JPN_PMO) October 8, 2022
In an email on Saturday, a spokesperson for the State Department told Newsweek that the U.S. “condemns the DPRK’s ballistic missile launch.”
“This launch, along with the other launches this month, are in violation of multiple United Nations Security Council Resolutions and pose a threat to the DPRK’s neighbors and the international community. We remain committed to a diplomatic approach to the DPRK and call on the DPRK to engage in dialogue. Our commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan remains ironclad,” the spokesperson wrote.
Earlier this week, North Korea fired a missile over Japan, prompting Japanese officials to advise citizens to take shelter before the projectile landed in the Pacific Ocean. Meanwhile on Thursday, North Korean fighter jets conducted firing drills near South Korea, leading its military to carry out an “overwhelming” response that involved 30 aircraft.
Yangmo Ku, a professor political science at Norwich University, told Newsweek on Saturday that the increased missile launches come as North Korea continues to see poor economic conditions that have been exacerbated in recent years by sanctions and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As the economic condition worsens, I think domestic complaints and all those things have been rising. So from the North Korean perspective…raising the tensions can be a good way to turn peoples’ attention to the outside,” Ku said.
He added that North Korea is “sensitive” to the military drills conducted between the U.S. and South Korea, and that the “missile launches will be a kind of protest against those kinds of joint military exercises.”
Ku said that as tensions have increased between China and Taiwan and following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China, Russia and North Korea have strengthened their alliances.
He also said that under the current geopolitical dynamics, China and Russia “don’t harshly criticize North Korea” over missile testing.
“From the North Korean perspective, it’s very optimal timing to conduct missile tests under these kinds of structural conditions,” Ku added.
This week, the American envoy to the United Nations accused China and Russia of “enabling North Korea,” as the two countries have vetoed efforts to toughen U.N. sanctions on the regime after it has ramped up missile tests.
In an interview on the Today show on Saturday, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander James Stavridis said U.S. officials should be prepared for North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un to conduct a nuclear test.
“Probably underground, perhaps out at sea. He is someone who is seeking attention in all the wrong ways, and I think that’s worth focusing on,” Stavridis said.
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