North Korea has rounded off 2022 with a series of ballistic missile launches overnight, Reuters has reported. This brings the total number of ballistic missile launches by Kim Jong-un’s regime to 73 across the entirety of the year, but a shift in political leadership in South Korea may have caused the latest display of military strength.
The three short-range ballistic missiles were fired from around 8am local time (2300 GMT) from North Hwanghae Province, south of the capital Pyongyang, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said. The altitude was around 100 km (62 miles) and covered a range of around 350 km (217 miles), Japan’s defence ministry said. South Korean military also said the missiles flew about 350 km
Speculation also continues to mount as a number of intelligence agencies have expressed concern over North Korea nuclear capabilities with a rumoured seventh nuclear missile test expected from the country. “North Korea’s ballistic missile(s) launch is a grave provocation that undermines peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula as well as the international community,” the South Korea Joint Chiefs of Staff stated to media outlets.
The recent show of strength may be in response to two developments that have recently occurred in South Korea. The first was the successful launch of a solid-propellant space launch vehicle by South Korea a day before North Korea’s latest ballistic missile launch. There has also been tension since South Korea’s recent presidential elections back in May 2022.
In those presidential elections, the conservative People Party came to power with Yoon Suk-yeol becoming the 13th president of South Korea. A prosecutor general before his ascension to the high office of South Korea, Suk-yeol has not shied away from being less lenient with his northern neighbours, calling for “a tougher stance toward the North”.
North Korea has not responded regarding condemnation for their latest round of ballistic missile “tests” with North Korean state media KCNA mentioning that leader Kim Jong-un had presided over a party meeting on Friday to decide policy and strategy for 2023.