Amidst Record-Breaking Missile Launches, North Korea Declares Itself “Irreversible” Nuclear Power: Joint Exercises Intensify between Seoul and Washington
North Korea Conducts Strategic Cruise Missile, Launching Drill
On Friday, North Korea announced that it had launched cruise missiles and alleged that the recent US-South Korean military drills, aimed at responding to a potential nuclear attack by North Korea, “can be regarded as a declaration of war.” The announcement came after the joint allies had conducted a tabletop exercise at the Pentagon, which was focused on responses to an attack by North Korea.
North Korean forces carried out a “strategic cruise missile launching drill” on Thursday, firing four Hwasal-2s, as reported by the official Korean Central News Agency. The exercise was intended to demonstrate North Korea’s “deadly nuclear counterattack capability against the hostile forces.” Meanwhile, the defense ministry in Seoul questioned the description of the drill, saying that the difference between the announcement and what the US and South Korean surveillance detected existed. The ministry further added that the analysis was still ongoing.
North Korea is not banned from firing cruise missiles under current UN sanctions, but the Thursday drill followed multiple weapons tests, including an intercontinental ballistic missile, which was condemned as “provocative” by the UN chief. Pyongyang criticized the criticism, calling on the global body to “bitterly condemn” Seoul and Washington over their joint military exercises.
Increasing Military Tension
The year 2022 witnessed North Korea’s declaration of itself as an “irreversible” nuclear power and the firing of a record-breaking number of missiles. This led Seoul and Washington to increase joint exercises and redeploy US strategic assets to the region. South Korea is striving to reassure its increasingly nervous public about the US commitment to so-called extended deterrence, where US assets, including nuclear weapons, serve to prevent attacks on allies. South Korea remains officially committed to nuclear non-proliferation, although calls grow domestically to consider getting its own nukes.
The joint tabletop exercise conducted by Washington and Seoul focused on “potential options for responding to DPRK nuclear weapons use.” However, North Korea viewed the exercise as a rehearsal for an invasion and responded with a statement, claiming that Washington’s “hostile and provocative practices… can be regarded as a declaration of war.”
Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader, has called for an “exponential” increase in weapons production, including tactical nuclear weapons. North Korea test-fired scores of banned missiles in 2022, putting East Asian neighbors on edge.
US and South Korea discuss possible deployment of US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier
Yonhap news agency reported on Friday that the United States and South Korea are currently in discussions regarding the potential deployment of a U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to South Korea next month. The carrier would make a port call in South Korea and participate in the Freedom Shield joint military drill between the allies if agreed upon.
Trilateral defense cooperation becomes more frequent as North Korea becomes more aggressive
In a rare display of trilateral defense cooperation, U.S., South Korean, and Japanese warships participated in a ballistic missile defense drill on Wednesday, as North Korea becomes more aggressive.
North Korean leader’s sister warns of using Pacific as a “firing range”
Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, recently issued a statement warning that her country would use the Pacific Ocean as a “firing range” if the U.S. and its allies persist in their hostile actions.
South Korea’s unification ministry said Friday that North Korea should stop spending on military development when its people are starving. The cost of the three ballistic missiles it fired this week “is enough to buy about 100,000 tons of food for about two to three million vulnerable people for about five months,” said Lee Hyo-Jung, deputy spokesperson of the ministry. South Korean officials have recently warned North Korea of severe food shortages after years of pandemic-linked isolation.
North Korea’s launching of cruise missiles followed multiple weapons tests, including an intercontinental ballistic missile, leading to increased tension and concern from its neighboring countries. The joint tabletop exercise conducted by Washington and Seoul focused on responding to DPRK nuclear weapons use. Pyongyang viewed it as a rehearsal for an invasion, leading to the North Korean forces conducting a “strategic cruise missile launching drill.” Furthermore, a humanitarian crisis exists in North Korea, which South Korea’s unification ministry claimed would be better served by using resources to address the issue.