According to its neighbors’ militaries, North Korea on Saturday, February 26, 2022, fired a suspected ballistic missile into the sea from the Sunan area near Pyongyang at around 8:48 am. The country’s national security council condemned Pyongyang’s unprecedented repeated firing of ballistic missiles, which goes against the peace of the Korean Peninsula and the international community.
According to Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, the missile had likely landed outside the country’s exclusive economic zone, as no immediate reports of damage to vessels were made. He added that early assessments suggest the missile flew about 180 miles eastward at a maximum altitude of 340 miles before landing in waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan. For the nation, the extremely high frequency of Pyongyang’s weapons tests this year is an eminent and unacceptable threat to the region.
On March 4th, North Korea fired another ballistic missile ahead of South Korea’s presidential election. The tests are seemingly a means of Pyongyang conveying its “discontent” with the outgoing South Korean President, Moon Jae-in. This voting period follows months of bitter campaigning where the two candidates clashed over whether South Korea should continue to pursue engagement with the belligerent North or take a harder line to check its nuclear threat.
It is worth noting that North Korea test-fired a string of weaponry in January 2022, from hypersonic to medium-range ballistic missiles, apparently amid a prolonged freeze in nuclear negotiations with the United States. According to the country’s state media, the launch was designed to test a camera system that is currently under development to be installed on a spy satellite.
Despite the biting international sanctions over its nuclear weapons, Pyongyang has ignored the United States’ offers of talks. This was evidenced when negotiations remained derailed after the collapse of then-President Donald Trump and Kim’s second meeting in February 2019. Overall, Americans rejected North Korea’s demands for sanction relief in exchange for dismantling an aging nuclear facility, which would have amounted to a partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities.
In the present day, the Biden administration has offered Pyongyang open-ended talks but has shown no willingness to offer the necessary economic benefits unless the North takes genuine steps to reduce its nuclear weapons and missile program. Just last month, North Korea accused the United States of being the “root cause” of the Ukraine crisis, saying Washington “meddled” in the internal affairs of other countries when it suited them but condemned legitimate self-defensive measures.
The timing of North Korea’s missile testing may seem odd to us, given the global focus on Ukraine. However, analysts had widely predicted Pyongyang would seek to capitalize on the United States’ distraction over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with more tests. From North Korea’s point of view, it makes perfect sense, as both launches serve to demonstrate to nations the power that their technologies and nuclear weaponry systems have at a crucial time in history.
Cheong Seong-chang of the Center for North Korean Studies at the Sejong Institute predicts that North Korea will perfect the launch of a new rocket carrying a satellite for Kim. It will be shown at a big military parade in mid-April to celebrate the 110th anniversary of the birth of the late founder, Kim II Sung, in April 2022.
The UN Security Council has adopted nine major sanctions resolutions on North Korea in response to the country’s nuclear and missile activities since 2006. Nevertheless, the country has remained ignorant of the United Nations Security Council resolution that bans nations from testing any type of ballistic missile, as they have never abided by the restrictions. Lastly, despite the United States and the United Nation’s devastating economic sanctions against Pyongyang, Pyongyang has consistently developed nuclear and missile technologies while threatening human and marine lives.
In all likelihood, the regime may be betting that it can easily get away with such violations of United Nations sanctions and, by doing so publicly, normalize its military activities as just another country keeping up with the neighbors to defend itself. For this reason, the United Nations Security Council should immediately hold a session to respond to the North’s missile launches by focusing on the implementation and enforcement of sanctions, and the production of regular reports on the status of these events.