Seoul | Both North Korea and South Korea fired missiles on Wednesday in what looks like an arms race between the two countries still technically at war.
The launch of a ballistic missile from a submarine by South Korea was overseen by President Moon Jae-in.
It intervened a few hours after Pyongyang launched two ballistic missiles into the sea.
The South thus became the seventh country in the world on Wednesday to have this cutting-edge technology, a major strategic advance for Seoul, which now has a head start in terms of military capabilities over its northern neighbor.
The latter is subject to international sanctions for its banned nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
“Having two Koreas carrying out ballistic missile test fires on the same day is extraordinary timing,” John Delury, professor at Yonsei University, told AFP.
“It shows that there is an arms race in this region that everyone should pay attention to.”
The missile was fired from the recently commissioned submarine Ahn Chang-ho and traveled the intended distance before reaching its target, said the Blue House, seat of the South Korean presidency.
Possession of a sea-to-surface ballistic missile (SLBM) is “very significant in terms of deterrence,” she stressed.
All countries with SLBM are equipped with nuclear weapons.
Hours earlier, the North had fired “two short-range ballistic missiles from South Pyongan province (center) eastward towards the sea,” Seoul Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
They traveled about 800 kilometers at a maximum altitude of about 60 kilometers.
Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said they had fallen into the waters of Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
South Korea now has “sufficient deterrent to respond to North Korea’s provocations at any time,” said President Moon.
He drew a scathing retaliation from the influential sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Kim Yo Jong condemned Seoul’s “illogical attitude” which sees its ballistic missile fire as “legitimate actions in support of peace. peace, and our actions as a threat to peace, ”she said, according to North Korean state media.
“Renew the dialogue”
This is the second shot from Pyongyang in less than a week, according to the official North Korean news agency KCNA, which on Monday reported the launch of a “long-range cruise missile” over the weekend.
Wednesday’s fire from both North and South came as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is in Seoul for talks with his South Korean counterpart.
Speaking before the announcement of the shootings, the minister said he hoped that all countries would contribute “to peace and stability in the Korean peninsula”, according to the South Korean news agency Yonhap, urging them “all to work together to renew the dialogue ”.
For analysts, these shots are a signal intended for China, the main diplomatic ally and trade partner of the North, although relations between the two countries are sometimes strained.
After coming to power at the end of 2011, Kim Jong Un waited more than six years before going to China, but then met several times with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Beijing considers the North to be an integral part of its sphere of influence.
Indirect message to China
Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies, said Wednesday’s shooting “sounds like an indirect message from North Korea and even a request to Beijing for the Korean peninsula to be dealt with by the China as a priority file ”.
“At the same time, Pyongyang seems to be asserting and emphasizing that North Korea is taking the lead on the Korean Peninsula case,” he added.
North Korea faces numerous sanctions for its banned nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
About 28,500 American troops are deployed in South Korea to defend that country against the North.
Pyongyang is currently more isolated than ever since its borders were closed early last year to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
His talks with the United States have stalled since the 2019 Hanoi summit failed in Hanoi between the North Korean leader and then US President Donald Trump over sanctions relief – and what Pyongyang would be ready to give up in return.
Earlier this week, the special representatives of the United States, Japan and South Korea for North Korea met in Tokyo.
Since Kim Jong Un took over as head of the country, weapons programs have progressed, but Pyongyang has not conducted any nuclear tests or intercontinental ballistic missile fire since 2017.
SEE ALSO …