Korean arms race heats up
North, South Korea conduct dueling missile tests
SEOUL, Sept 15: Both North Korea and South Korea test fired ballistic missiles on Wednesday, the latest volley in an arms race that has seen both countries develop increasingly sophisticated weapons while efforts to get talks going on defusing tension prove fruitless.
South Korea tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile, becoming the first country without nuclear weapons to develop such a system. South Korea President Moon was attending that test firing when word came of the North Korean launches, its first ballistic missile tests since March.
North Korea fired a pair of ballistic missiles that landed in the sea off its east coast, according to officials in South Korea and Japan, just days after it tested a cruise missile that is believed to have nuclear capabilities.
North Korea has been steadily developing its weapons systems amid a standoff over talks aimed at dismantling its nuclear and ballistic missile arsenals in return for U.S. sanctions relief. The negotiations, initiated between former U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in 2018, have stalled since 2019.
"North Korea fired two unidentified ballistic missiles from its central inland region toward the east coast, and intelligence authorities of South Korea and the United States are conducting detailed analysis for further information," South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a statement.
The missiles were fired just after 12:30 p.m. (0330 GMT), flying 800 km (497 miles) to a maximum altitude of 60 km (37 miles), the JCS reported.
The U.S. military's Indo-Pacific Command said North Korea's missile launches did not pose an immediate threat to U.S. personnel, territory, or allies, but highlight the destabilizing impact of its illicit weapons program.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga called the missile launch "outrageous" and strongly condemned it as a threat to peace and security in the region.
China's foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a daily briefing that China hoped "relevant parties" would "exercise restraint."
South Korea has been splurging on a range of new military systems, including ballistic missiles, submarines, and its first aircraft carrier. It has a stated policy of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.
The arms race has accelerated under Moon for a number of reasons, including his push for more foreign policy autonomy, wariness of relying on the United States after Trump's presidency and military developments in both North Korea and China, said Ramon Pacheco Pardo, a Korea expert at King's College London. -REUTERS