North Korea fires two new missiles, the third in less than ten days | International

North Korea has fired a new shot of ballistic missiles this Friday, the third in less than ten days. According to the South Korean General Staff, this time the North has used two short-range projectiles, which it launched from Pyongan province, in the northwest of the country and in the vicinity of China. Just hours earlier, Pyongyang had warned that it would respond “certainly and more forcefully” to what it considers a “provocation” by the United States, the decision to impose a new round of sanctions against the North’s weapons program.

The launch, also confirmed by Japan’s coastguard, comes just three days after North Korea fired what it has described as a hypersonic missile, capable of traveling five times faster than sound, in a test to which Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un attended for the first time in nearly two years.

The two projectiles this Friday do not appear to belong to the type of those fired in recent days, “hypersonic glide vehicle” missiles, as described by Pyongyang. The South Korean General Staff considers that they traveled a distance of 430 kilometers and reached a maximum height of 36 kilometers. They followed a northeasterly trajectory and were detected hovering near Uiju, on North Korea’s border with China, before falling into the sea. The launches occurred at 2:41 p.m. and 2:52 p.m. local time (6:41 a.m. and 6:52 a.m. respectively in Spanish peninsular time).

In a statement, the South Korean General Staff has indicated that it monitors with great attention the arms movements of its neighbor to the North. For his part, the Japanese prime minister has called on his government to make “maximum efforts” to obtain and analyze information on the launch, provide rapid and adequate information and “guarantee the safety of aircraft, ships and other assets”, among other measures.

North Korea had limited its missile tests in the last three years, since Kim declared the national nuclear program completed in November 2017 and in 2018 began a process of negotiations with the United States to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. But the talks had been stalled since the Hanoi summit fiasco in 2019 between the supreme leader and the then US president, Donald Trump, without the change of administration in Washington having served to break the deadlock.

With no indication that the process can resume in the short or medium term, last year Kim ordered the development of state-of-the-art weapons, including hypersonic missiles. In September, Pyongyang fired its first such projectile, a Hwasong-8. And this January, it has recovered a rhythm of launches that has not been seen since 2017, when tensions with the US government of Trump threatened the outbreak of a full-fledged conflict.

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On January 5 and this Tuesday 11, the North fired two ballistic missiles, also hypersonic according to what he assured. Such launches are likely to continue: According to the official KCNA news agency, in Tuesday’s test, Kim instructed North Korean weapons scientists to “accelerate efforts to gradually strengthen the country’s strategic military muscle.”

Since the Hanoi failure and until now, the United States has chosen to more or less turn a blind eye to occasional North Korean missile launches. But after Tuesday’s firing, which Pyongyang has described as the test of its most advanced hypersonic rocket yet, Washington announced the imposition of sanctions against half a dozen top North Korean regime officials involved in the weapons programme. It was the first time that the Joe Biden Administration had resorted to this type of retaliation against the Kim regime. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday called the latest North Korean tests “deeply destabilizing” and “dangerous,” an attempt to “attract attention.”

“If the United States adopts such a confrontational posture, North Korea will be forced to adopt a certain and more forceful reaction against it,” a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Pyongyang replied, quoted by KCNA.

That of hypersonic missiles is a technology that until now only the United States, China and Russia have. All three are locked in a competition to develop such rockets, whose ability to adopt a variable trajectory and maneuver at different heights makes them much more difficult for hostile countries’ defensive shields to detect. So far, it seems that Beijing is in the starting position in that race.

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