North Korea fired a sea-to-ground ballistic missile on Saturday (May 7th), announced the South Korean army staff. It is the fifteenth show of force this year for the nuclear-armed country, which also launched an intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time since 2017.
This new shooting comes before the entry into office Tuesday, May 10 of a new president in South Korea, Yoon Suk-yeol. He intends to create a new balance of power with the North, which accentuates the fears of an escalation. The outgoing president, Moon Jae-in, has sought during his five years in office to promote a peaceful approach to relations with his neighbor, but without obtaining the expected results.
North Korea: “Missile fire will continue”
On the contrary, North Korea continued to develop its nuclear arsenal. The United States warned on Friday that it could imminently conduct its first nuclear test since 2017. Pyongyang “preparing the Punggye-ri test site and could be ready to conduct a test there as early as this month, which would be its seventh test” nuclear, said a spokeswoman for the American diplomacy, Jalina Porter. “This analysis is consistent with recent public statements made by North Korea itself.”.
The Pyongyang regime carried out six nuclear tests between 2006 and 2017. These had since been interrupted, as had the firing of intercontinental ballistic missiles. At the end of March 2022, this moratorium had been interrupted for the first time with the test of an intercontinental missile.
→ What is an intercontinental ballistic missile?
Satellite imagery therefore showed signs of new activity in a tunnel at the Punggye-ri site. The latter, according to the North Koreans, was demolished in 2018 ahead of a historic summit between Kim Jong Un and then US President Donald Trump. The two men had met three times, in Singapore, in Hanoi (Vietnam) then in the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas.
However, this phase of dialogue fizzled and negotiations on the denuclearization of North Korea remained at a standstill.
Joe Biden, in the White House since January 2021, has said he is ready to resume this dialogue to discuss the denuclearization of the reclusive country, but his outstretched hand has so far remained empty. On the contrary, North Korea has been increasing since the beginning of the year the tests of armaments prohibited by the resolutions of the Security Council of the United Nations. So far, the Biden administration has rather turned its back on what it nevertheless considers to be ” Provocation “.
The surge in North Korean trials comes as the US president is due to visit South Korea and Japan from May 20-24. Beyond bilateral relations, the purpose of the trip will be to make ” advancing the firm commitment » of the United States in favor of an Asia-Pacific region “free and open”according to a press release.
In Tokyo, he will thus meet with the leaders of the member countries of the “Quad”, an informal alliance involving the United States, Australia, India and Japan. Its main objective is to counter Chinese influence, Beijing being also the main support of North Korea.
→Read What is the “Quad”, this alliance intended to counter China in the Pacific?