North Korea’s Continued Missile Launches and the Escalating Tensions in East Asia

The recent launch of a suspected intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) by North Korea has further escalated tensions in East Asia. This comes after a meeting between South Korean and US defence officials to update plans on how to respond to a nuclear attack from the North. In response, Pyongyang has announced that it will take “more offensive countermeasures”. This latest missile launch follows a short-range missile launch on Sunday night and a longer-range weapon launch on Monday morning. The missile travelled for 73 minutes, covering about 1,000km, before landing in the sea west of Hokkaido, Japan. If confirmed to be an ICBM, this would be North Korea’s fifth launch of such weapons this year, the highest ever for a single year.

The launch of an ICBM by North Korea poses a significant threat to the international community, especially if it can reach the North American continent. With each successful missile launch, North Korea is further advancing its capabilities and increasing the range of its missiles. This not only threatens the stability of the region but also raises concerns about the potential for a nuclear attack.

Tensions between North and South Korea have been on the rise since Pyongyang successfully launched a spy satellite into orbit, in violation of United Nations sanctions. In response, South Korea partially suspended a military agreement with the North, which was meant to limit military activity along the border and reduce the likelihood of clashes. Pyongyang retaliated by withdrawing from the agreement entirely and re-arming its soldiers in previously unarmed areas of the Demilitarised Zone.

The launch of an ICBM by North Korea was not unexpected, as South Korea’s national security advisor had predicted it would happen at some point in December. However, the exact type of long-range missile launched is still unknown. The North’s latest ICBM model is the solid-fuelled Hwasong-18, which was last launched in July following a successful flight in April. North Korea is also working on developing a new solid-fuelled medium-range ballistic missile.

The use of solid-fuelled missiles by North Korea is particularly concerning as they can be fired with less warning since they do not need to be fueled prior to launch. This makes it difficult for the international community to anticipate and respond to missile launches effectively. As North Korea continues to refine and expand its arsenal of nuclear weapons, the need for increased defensive measures becomes more urgent.

In response to North Korea’s escalating missile launches, South Korea and the United States are stepping up their defense of the region. In a recent meeting in Washington, officials from both countries updated their contingency plans for how to respond to a North Korean nuclear attack. Additionally, they agreed to include the use of nuclear weapons in their upcoming military exercises next summer, highlighting the seriousness with which they are approaching the situation.

The international community must closely monitor the situation in East Asia and take proactive measures to address the growing threat posed by North Korea’s missile and nuclear capabilities. Efforts should focus on diplomatic negotiations to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and ensure regional stability. A unified response from countries in the region and international cooperation are essential to effectively address this pressing issue.

It is crucial for countries to prioritize the safety and security of their citizens in the face of North Korea’s actions. This can be achieved through the implementation of robust defense systems, intelligence sharing, and diplomatic coordination. Countermeasures should also include strict enforcement of United Nations sanctions to limit North Korea’s ability to advance its missile and nuclear programs.

The North Korean missile launches serve as a reminder of the volatile nature of the region and the need for continued vigilance. As the international community adapts to these evolving threats, it is imperative to maintain open lines of communication and cooperation to ensure a peaceful resolution of the situation and prevent further tension and conflict in East Asia.