Seoul, South Korea Eureka News Now —
North Korea fired two ballistic missiles into waters off its east coast on Sunday, the latest in a record year for test launches by the Kim Jong Un regime.
The launches, reported by both South Korean and Japanese authorities, marked the 35th day this year that North Korea has conducted a missile test.
They follow North Korea’s claim on Friday that it has successfully tested a solid-fuel rocket motor, a development that could allow Kim’s regime to launch an ICBM more quickly and reliably in the future.
North Korea’s last known missile test was on November 18 when it launched a Hwasong-17 ICBM.
Japanese authorities said the missiles launched on Sunday reached an altitude of 550 kilometers (342 miles) and flew a distance of 500 kilometers (311 miles), suggesting they were not long-range ballistic weapons.
The South Korean military identified them as MRBMs – medium-range ballistic missiles. She called the launches “a serious provocation damaging peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and the international community” and condemned the shooting as a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
Japan’s Deputy Defense Minister Toshiro Ino said the missiles fell into the sea and no damage to planes or ships in the area has been reported so far. He said the Japanese government had lodged a protest with North Korea through diplomatic channels.
Both South Korea and the United States have urged North Korea to immediately end its missile tests.
North Korea has tested missiles and components of various sizes this year.
Ankit Panda, nuclear policy expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Eureka News Now last week that the pace of testing this year shows Pyongyang has emerged as a missile power.
“The overall picture is that North Korea is literally emerging as a prominent operator of large-scale missile forces,” Panda said.
“The word test is no longer appropriate to talk about most North Korean missile launches,” Panda said.
“Most of the missiles they have launched this year are part of military exercises. They’re rehearsing for nuclear war. And that, I think, is the big picture this year.”
Panda and other analysts note that North Korea’s missile tests follow an ambitious plan set out by Kim in 2021 to become a power in the field.
The latest tests come just days after a new US Space Force command was established in South Korea.
The new unit, based at Osan Air Base south of Seoul, “will be tasked with coordinating space operations and services such as missile warning, positional navigation and timekeeping, and satellite communications in the region,” according to US Forces Korea.
When asked what potential adversaries like Pyongyang might benefit from the unit’s formation, the commander of Space Forces Korea, Lt. Col. Joshua McCullion, he hopes this will have a deterrent effect.
“The hope is that they see that we are ready,” he said.