North Korea has yet again added fuel to the fire by continuing its missile tests. Pyongyang reportedly fired eight short-range ballistic missiles toward its eastern coast last Sunday. This comes a day after the United States and South Korea ended their joint military drills.
According to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, some eight missiles were fired off from the Sunan area of Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. The South Korean officials stated that these missiles flew at 70 to 370 miles (110km to 60km) with an altitude between 82,000 feet to 295,276 feet.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol called upon the National Security Council (NSC) for a meeting. Here, they concluded that the recent missile launch was a “test and challenge” attempt from the DPRK, seemingly wanting to get a feel for the security and readiness of South Korea to respond to a missile launch. And it notably did launch a missile launch in return, with Yoon ordering an “expanded deterrence of South Korea and the United States and continued reinforcement of united defense posture.”
“We will make sure there isn’t a single crack in protecting the lives and property of our people,” he said.
South Korea and the US launched eight missiles on Monday as a response to the North Korean missile volley. This move is to posture to the North that the US and South Korea can readily retaliate if the North does fire a missile directly at Seoul.
This is the largest number of missile tests they have launched in a single day, with their missile program ramping up its activities as it said it was preparing for a “long confrontation” with the US. In doing so, it conducted its first launch of the Hwasong-17 ICBM last March after its four-year moratorium that started last 2017.
“The new strategic weapon of the DPRK will clearly show the might of our strategic force to the whole world once again. This will be an occasion of confirming the modernity of our strategic force and confidence in the security of the state,” the North Korean leader said last March.
This also comes after the recent Presidential election win of South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who had assumed office last May 10th. He promised that he would be taking a firmer, more aggressive stance against North Korea and Kim Jong-un by planning to buy more THAAD systems and expanding defense and deterrence capabilities in cooperation with the US. This reportedly includes offensive strike capabilities and enhanced missile defense.
In fact, Biden and Yeol have recently met and have agreed to expand military cooperation, specifically with exercises and training around the Korean Peninsula.
“With this in mind, and considering the evolving threat posed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), both leaders agree to initiate discussions to expand the scope and scale of combined military exercises and training on and around the Korean Peninsula. Both leaders also reaffirm the commitment of the U.S. to deploy strategic U.S. military assets in a timely and coordinated manner as necessary, as well as to enhance such measures and identify new or additional steps to reinforce deterrence in the face of DPRK destabilizing activities,” a joint statement said.
“We will build a powerful military force that can assuredly deter any provocation to protect the safety and property of our citizens and safeguard the territorial integrity and sovereignty of our nation,” Yoon said last March but stressed that the door to diplomacy and dialogue would always be left open.
In an attempt to further deter the North Korean’s missile launches, the US called for more UN sanctions against Pyongyang – with China and Russia using their veto to protect the hermit country. This is obviously because of the staunch US support for Ukraine in the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War, where Russia is seen to be performing very poorly. We’re also sure that additional sanctions on North Korea would not deter it from launching missiles as it is already one of the most sanctioned countries in the entire world.
According to a professor of international studies at Ewha University, Leif-Eric Easley, the US and South Korea are indeed showing their capability to respond to missile firings from North Korea with counter-launches. This shows Seoul’s readiness for precision strikes.
However, with continued back-and-forth missile launches, it may be the case that tensions will only rise from here as South Korea takes a more hardline stance against its neighbor. While the US and South Korea have systems to deter an attack, Easley states that South Korea’s current missile defense systems were insufficient to deal with a large-scale attack, which is why a THAAD system is needed to bolster the South’s air defense capabilities.