On Thursday morning, North Korea launched a short-range ballistic missile toward the Yellow Sea just days after Kim Yo Jong, sister of leader Kim Jong Un, said in a statement that any effort to shoot down one of North Korea’s test missiles would be an act of war.
The missile was reportedly launched at around 6:20pm local time, from a site near the North Korean city of Nampo towards the waters of the Yellow Sea off its west coast. The Yellow Sea is located between China and the Korean Peninsula.
The launch followed the deployment of a U.S. Air Force nuclear-capable B-52 Stratofortress to the Korean Peninsula earlier this week as part of joint exercises with South Korean warplanes. It was also likely in reaction to the planned large-scale joint military “Freedom Shield” exercise between the United States and South Korea that is scheduled to take place later this month. It would be the largest such drill held between the two nations since 2018.
Provocation And Response
North Korea has called such exercises a provocation.
In a statement, the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command offered a response: “We are aware of the ballistic missile launch and are consulting closely with our allies and partners. While we have assessed that this event does not pose an immediate threat to U.S. personnel or territory, or to our allies, the missile launch highlights the destabilizing impact of the DPRK’s (North Korea’s) unlawful WMD and ballistic missile programs. The U.S. commitments to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan remain ironclad.”
A U.S. intelligence threat assessment report, released on Wednesday, suggested, “Since September 2022, North Korea has timed its missile launches and military demonstrations to counter U.S.–South Korea exercises probably to attempt to coerce the United States and South Korea to change their behavior,” Reuters reported.
The Nuclear Hermit Kingdom
North Korea conducted a record number of missile tests last year and has continued to demonstrate its capabilities in 2023 – which has already included the launches of an intercontinental ballistic missile, short-range missiles, and a purported long-range cruise missile system.
There is a common belief that Pyongyang’s increased testing activity and threats are an attempt to show that it is able to conduct nuclear strikes in South Korea and even on the U.S. mainland. Experts have suggested that Kim may see his nuclear arsenal as his strongest guarantee of survival, and it is part of an effort to force the United States to deal with North Korea as a nuclear power – which could allow Pyongyang to negotiate badly needed economic concessions from a position of strength.
To date, Washington and its allies have never shot down any North Korean ballistic missile, even as they are banned by the United Nations Security Council. However, there is a concern that the regime could fire additional missiles over its neighbors, including Japan, and turn the Pacific Ocean into a firing range.
“The Pacific Ocean does not belong to the dominium of the U.S. or Japan,” Kim You Jong also said in her statement to state media.
That fact may be true, but it also isn’t North Korea’s either – and a showdown could be looming.
Author Experience and Expertise:
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.