N. Korea fires two more ballistic missiles on eve of US VP’s arrival in S. Korea

Posted on : 2022-09-29 17:32 KST Modified on : 2022-09-29 17:32 KST
The launch is being read as a show of force in response to joint US-S. Korea military drills
This undated file photo shows a ballistic missile being launched by North Korea. (Yonhap)
This undated file photo shows a ballistic missile being launched by North Korea. (Yonhap)

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff reported that North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea on Wednesday. The launch came three days after a previous short-range ballistic missile launched on Sunday.

The launch on Wednesday — which came on the eve of US Vice President Kamala Harris’s arrival in South Korea — appears to be a show of force responding to the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan’s appearance in the port of Busan and the Korea-US joint maritime exercises taking place in the East Sea.

The two missiles were launched from the Sunan area of Pyongyang to the East Sea between 6:10 and 6:20 pm, the Joint Chiefs said Wednesday.

So far this year, North Korea has launched ballistic missiles on 18 occasions and cruise missiles on two occasions.

This is also the sixth launch since Yoon Suk-yeol took office as president of South Korea.

This latest ballistic missile launch took place while South Korea and the US are carrying out joint maritime drills.

A US aircraft carrier strike group composed of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) and the Aegis-equipped destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52) arrived in Busan on Friday for training with the South Korean Navy on Monday through Thursday in the East Sea.

This is the first South Korea-US joint maritime exercise involving a US carrier to take place near the Korean Peninsula in about five years. The last such exercise was held in November 2017 following a series of nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests by North Korea.

In related news, South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) predicted that if North Korea does test a nuclear weapon, it’s likely to happen between Oct. 16 and Nov. 7.

That prediction was reported by Yoo Sang-bum, ranking member of the People Power Party on the National Assembly’s Intelligence Committee, following a plenary session of the committee.

“The NIS thinks that if North Korea decides to test a nuclear device, it’s likely to happen between the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party on Oct. 16 and the US midterm elections on Nov. 7. The NIS said that the third tunnel [at the nuclear test site] at Punggye Village has been completed and that there’s a greater likelihood of a nuclear test,” Yoo said.

However, the NIS said this timeline wasn’t based on the actual possibility of North Korea testing a nuclear device.

Youn Kun-young, ranking member of the Democratic Party on the committee, explained that the NIS was suggesting that North Korea “would decide [whether to carry out a nuclear test] based on a range of factors, including various international relationships and the COVID-19 situation.”

According to Youn, the NIS said “it’s not right to make a probabilistic calculation” of a North Korean nuclear test.

“This all assumes that North Korea goes ahead [with a nuclear test]. They weren’t speaking about the actual possibility or probability,” added Yoo, the PPP lawmaker.

By Shin Hyeong-cheol, staff reporter; Sun Dam-eun, staff reporter; Kim Mi-na, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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