Campus News Editor
On January 30, North Korea launched what is thought to be the country’s longest-range missile tested since 2017, according to BBC News. states that the missile launched at a high trajectory with the apparent goal to avoid their neighbor’s territorial space, reaching a maximum altitude of 2,000 kilometers and traveling 800 kilometers. The 2017 tests included two intermediate-range ballistic missiles launched over Japan and three intercontinental ballistic missiles with the potential to reach the United States. BBC News states that the United Nations bans ballistic and nuclear weapons tests and has placed strict sanctions on North Korea, which has continued its testing regardless.
In an emergency meeting of South Korea’s National Security Council, President Moon Jae-in explained that the tests appeared to be a step by North Korea to end its “self-imposed moratorium on testing its longest-range intercontinental ballistic missiles,” says Reuters. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has stated that he no longer follows the moratorium, which was established in 2018 by then-U.S. President Donald Trump. Kim’s regime implied that they may resume tests due to the U.S. and its allies failing to end their “hostile policies” towards the country.
NBC News reports that the official Korean Central News Agency described the test as an attempt to verify the Hwasong-12 missile’s accuracy. North Korea’s recent series of launch tests are considered an attempt to acquire relief from sanctions or to be recognized as a legitimate nuclear state. Lecturer Dr. Daniel Pinkston told BBC News that North Korea’s nuclear actions are an attempt to signal to various powers and potential foreign buyers that their program is growing more serious. Pinkston also explained that the missile tests provide a signal of strength for North Korea’s domestic audience. The Associated Press furthers that Kim has shown no willingness to surrender North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, despite the country’s struggles under UN sanctions. Professor Kim Dong Yup, a former South Korean naval commander, explained that the country’s main goal is “not to attack but to defend themselves,” states BBC News.
The tests are the first to follow the sanctions imposed by the Biden administration on North Korea after missile launches earlier in January, reports NBC News. U.S. President Joe Biden has struggled to convince the country to surrender its nuclear arsenal since he took office in January 2021. The New York Times states that Kim rejected the administration’s offers for dialogue, advising his government to prepare for ‘long-term confrontation’ against the U.S.
North Korea began interacting with China, its primary trading partner, in January for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. On February 4, Kim congratulated Chinese President Xi Jinping on the Beijing Winter Olympics, calling it a “great victory won by socialist China” in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, states Al Jazeera. He further described the relations between North Korea and China as “invincible strategic relations that can never be broken by anything.” Both China and Russia blocked the United States’ proposal to place sanctions on five North Koreans as a result of missile launches in a UN Security Council meeting on January 20, Al Jazeera further reports.
According to France 24, Cheong Seong-chang of the Center for North Korea Studies in Sejong stated that this celebratory message implies that China should not be concerned about any North Korean missile tests throughout the Olympics. The Associated Press reports, however, that experts suggest once the Olympics are over, North Korea could increase its weapons demonstrations to further pressure the Biden administration.