The South Korean military described the two missiles as medium-range weapons launched at a steep angle, suggesting they could have traveled farther had they been fired on a standard trajectory. North Korea typically tests medium- and long-range missiles at a high angle to avoid neighboring countries, although it fired an intermediate-range missile over Japan in October, forcing Tokyo to issue warnings of evacuation and stopping trains.
At an emergency meeting, senior South Korean security officials lamented North Korea’s continued provocations which they say come despite “the plight of its citizens groaning with hunger and cold due to ‘a severe food shortage’. They said South Korea would strengthen trilateral security cooperation with the United States and Japan, according to the South Korean presidential office.
Japanese Deputy Defense Minister Toshiro Ino separately criticized North Korea for threatening the security of Japan, the region and the international community. The US Indo-Pacific Command said the launches highlight the destabilizing impact of North Korea’s illegal weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs. He said US commitments to the defense of South Korea and Japan “remain ironclad.”
Kwon Yong Soo, a former professor at Korea National Defense University in South Korea, said North Korea has likely tested its Pukguksong-2 missile, a solid-fueled land-based variant of its Pukguksong missile family that can be fired from submarines. Kwon said the flight details of the weapons tested on Sunday were similar to those of the two known Pukguksong-2 tests in 2017.
Kwon said the Pukguksong-2 can travel around 1,200 to 2,000 kilometers (745 to 1,240 miles) if launched on a normal trajectory, enough range to hit key facilities in Japan, including military installations. Americans there. Some experts say the Pukguksong-2 is nuclear capable.
“North Korea staged an armed protest with a land-based version of a submarine-launched ballistic missile that it can fire quickly in response” to Japan’s national security strategy, Kwon said.
Some observers say North Korea may have tested a newly developed medium-range missile that can still reach Japan.
The Japanese government on Friday adopted a national security strategy that would allow it to carry out preemptive strikes and fire powerful cruise missiles to give itself a more offensive posture against threats from neighboring China and North Korea. This was a major departure from its strictly self-defense post-war principle. The Japanese strategy singles out China as “the greatest strategic challenge” – ahead of North Korea and Russia – to Japan’s efforts to secure peace, security and stability for itself and the international community.
Sunday’s launch is the North’s first public weapons test since the launch last month of its developmental, longer-range, liquid-fueled Hwasong-17 ICBM capable of reaching all of the United States. Earlier this year, North Korea tested a variety of other missiles at a record pace.
North Korea has defended its weapons tests as self-defense measures to deal with extensive military exercises between the United States and South Korea that it sees as a rehearsal for an invasion. But some experts say North Korea likely used its rivals’ military training as an excuse to expand its arsenal and increase its influence in future negotiations with the United States to secure sanctions relief and other concessions.
“In the face of mounting diplomatic pressure after an unprecedented year for North Korean missile testing, the Kim regime is determined to show no weakness ahead of the political events of the New Year,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.
On Friday, North Korea said it tested a “high-thrust solid-fuel engine” for a new strategic weapon the day before, a development that experts say could allow it to possess a more mobile and challenging intercontinental ballistic arsenal. to detect. missiles that can reach the American continent.
North Korea will likely use the engine to build a solid-fuel ICBM, which is among a list of high-tech weapons systems leader Kim Jong Un has pledged to build to deal with what it calls for American hostility, experts say.
All of North Korea’s existing ICBMs use liquid propellant, which must be added to weapons before they are fired. This makes it relatively easier for outsiders to spot their launch preparations via satellites. But solid-propellant rockets are already loaded inside with fuel, which shortens launch preparation times, increases their mobility and makes it harder for outsiders to know what’s going on before liftoff. North Korea already has a growing arsenal of short-range, solid-fueled ballistic missiles targeting key locations in South Korea, including US military bases there.
Kwon, the former professor, said North Korea could test a solid-fuel ICBM designed to reach the US west coast as early as the first half of next year.
Some experts speculate that North Korea already has functional nuclear-tipped missiles that can strike all of the United States and its allies South Korea and Japan, given the number of years it has spent on its nuclear program. But others say the country is still years away from acquiring such weapons, noting that it has yet to publicly prove that it has the technology to build warheads small enough to be placed on missiles or protect warheads from the harsh conditions of atmospheric re-entry.