North Korea Tests Weapons at an Incredible Rate

On Saturday, North Korea carried out its ninth nuclear test of the year, sending an unknown missile into the Sea of Japan. According to the office of the Japanese prime minister, the missile was a “presumed ballistic missile.”

North Korea has yet to respond to the missile test and normally remains mute following missile tests. 

Weapons Testing

North Korea’s latest launch extends its 2022 weapons testing frenzy less than a week after its previous test on February 27.

Per the Japan Times, North Korea is conducting weapons tests at an “unprecedented rate” this year. Pyongyang oversaw more nuclear tests in January than it did in the entire year of 2021.

According to the South Korean military, the rocket was launched from Pyongyang’s Sunan neighborhood shortly before 9:00 a.m.

The missile sailed into the sea of Japan’s seas. Per the Times, the rocket landed outside of Japan’s exclusive trade zone, which stretches out 200 nautical miles from the country.

North Korea’s most recent weapons test was the space launch of a surveillance satellite.

According to Bloomberg, experts believe the launch was a covert test of long-range missile tech, closely matching the equipment employed in such satellite launches. 

North Korea’s latest nuclear test comes amid a two-year halt in diplomatic talks with the US over the Korean Peninsula’s nuclear disarmament.

According to the Associated Press, talks involving Pyongyang and Washington stopped in 2019, following a dispute between the two parties over the lifting of severe economic sanctions imposed by the US against North Korea.

Saturday’s purported ballistic missile launch and others violate United Nations Security Council resolutions, prompting outrage from several United Nations member states.

North Korea’s leadership, led by dictator Kim Jong-un, resisted diplomatic outreach, even rejecting offers of COVID-19 vaccinations from international relief organizations, according to The Wall Street Journal. 

Further Complications

The Biden presidency has an unconditional offer to reopen diplomatic talks with Pyongyang. For two years, the North Korean leadership has refused to engage in additional negotiations.

Its current rounds of weapons testing threaten to complicate matters further as President Biden tries to manage the crisis between Russia and Ukraine, while also negotiating a new deal with Iran. 

Weapons testing might also significantly impact South Korea’s leadership, which is days away from an election.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Seoul embraced a pro-engagement strategy with Pyongyang under left-leaning President Moon Jae-in.

It’s a close contest between Lee Jae-Myung, a progressive member of the ruling party who would continue Mr. Moon’s strategy, and Yoon Suk-yeol, a conservative who wants to take a more combative position toward the Kim government.

According to Lee Jae-Myung of the Democrat Party, the recent missile test might be presented as Pyongyang retaliating against a hard-line conservative. So, voters should vote for a president who prioritizes diplomacy, Prof. Lee said.