Seoul, South Korea — North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles towards the East Sea on Wednesday, just a day before US Vice President Kamala Harris’ arrival in South Korea and amid speculation that North Korea prepares to carry out its seventh nuclear test in October.
The South Korean military detected two short-range ballistic missiles fired from the Sunan area of Pyongyang towards the East Sea between 6:10 p.m. and 6:20 p.m. local time, according to the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff.
It is the second ballistic missile launch in a week after North Korea fired a short-range surface-to-surface missile from the western inland city of Taechon on Sunday.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff immediately and strongly condemned the missile launch, calling it a “serious provocation” that undermines peace and security on the Korean peninsula as well as the international community. Pyongyang has launched 18 ballistic missiles as well as two cruise missiles so far in 2022.
“North Korea’s provocative act will heighten the deterrence and response capabilities of the South Korean and U.S. ally and deepen North Korea’s isolation from the international community,” the chiefs said. South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff in a statement. “This is a flagrant violation of the UN Security Council resolution and we urge North Korea to stop immediately.”
South Korean lawmakers told reporters they believe North Korea has prepared an underground nuclear test site and that South Korean officials believe their northern neighbor will undertake its seventh nuclear test between October 16 and on November 7, although these reports have not been confirmed.
“It has become more plausible that North Korea is conducting a nuclear test as it prepares the underground nuclear test tunnel,” lawmaker Youn Kun-young said after a closed-door briefing with the agency. Seoul spying, the National Intelligence Service. “According to the NIS, there is a strong possibility that if North Korea does this, it will happen between the 20th Chinese Party Congress on October 16 and before the US midterm elections on November 7.”
Youn confirmed that the dates are only a reasonable guess and not confirmation of any specific information.
“North Korea must give due consideration to its allies, China and Russia,” former NIS North Korea analyst Kwak Gil-sup told ABC News. “And dropping a nuclear security issue before the U.S. midterm elections could work out favorably for China and Russia, both currently in political conflict with Washington.”
Another analyst suggested that while North Korea is fully prepared to conduct a nuclear test, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will soon.
“When North Korea passed the new law enshrining its nuclear doctrine this month, it was to say that they have nuclear weapons. North Korea has already proven its capabilities to successfully build a hydrogen bomb that could fit on top of an intercontinental ballistic missile during its sixth nuclear test in September 2017,” said Park Hwee Rhak, Chairman of the Committee of nuclear defense of the Hansun Foundation. ABC News. “If North Korea conducts another nuclear test, it would only mean that it has upgraded the force or developed a smaller warhead, but I don’t see why it would release a strategic weapon.”
Both analysts, however, agreed on the unpredictable nature of North Korea.
“When it comes to North Korea, hours of analysis and speculation still come up against a surprise threat,” Park said.