02/20/2023, 16.08
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Nuclear tensions rising on the Korean peninsula as N Korea’s carries out new tests

by Guido Alberto Casanova

This morning, North Korea fired two missiles, two days after testing an intercontinental ballistic missile. For Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un, how many missiles North Korea will fire will depend on Seoul and Washington. In South Korea, 70 per cent of the population backs an independent South Korean nuclear force.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – Tensions are rising on the Korean peninsula. The situation had been deteriorating for some time, but got worse over the past few days.

After several launches last year, this morning North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea (Sea of Japan) two days after testing its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) of 2023. Experts believe the new missile could have reached US territory.

On Friday, the North Korean Foreign Ministry issued a harsh statement against South Korea and the United States, expressing its determination to take strong countermeasures to stop the two allies from carrying out joint military exercises.

Following its missile tests over the past three days, North Korea threatened to keeping testing. Today, North Korea’s KCNA new agency quoted Kim Yo-jong, sister of leader Kim Jong-un and a senior North Korean official, who said: “How often we use the Pacific Ocean as our shooting range depends on the nature of actions by the U.S. forces.”

Today's launch comes a day after the United States and South Korea held joint air exercises in response to Saturday's launch. North Korea has always condemned such exercises, claiming they are evidence of invasion plans against the North.

According to experts, Pyongyang's decision to resume missile launches should be seen in light of increasing tensions between the two Koreas, but above all the joint exercises between the two allies. This comes as South Korea described the North as an "enemy" in official defence documents for the first time in five years.

This week South Korea and the United States will begin to outline concrete steps to operationalise the nuclear deterrence Washington offers the South.

On Wednesday, military officers from the two countries will meet at the Pentagon for a simulation, during which they will begin to study possible plans in the event of a nuclear attack by the North.

North Korea’s recent tests should be interpreted as an attempt to intimidate the two allies, to warn them about its missile capabilities, and dissuade them from any attack against the North.

During a parade in Pyongyang two weeks ago, Kim Jong-un showed off a vast nuclear arsenal that the United States would probably have trouble neutralising.

Faced with a complicated situation, South Korean public opinion is shifting decisively in favour of developing a domestic nuclear military capability. In some polls, about 70 per cent of the population is now in favour of a South Korea going nuclear.

The main factor in shaping South Korean attitudes is first and foremost the awareness that the North is not willing to denuclearise.

There is also a certain scepticism about the United States’ actual commitment to South Korea’s defence at a time when US territory is within range of Kim Jong-un's missiles.

For his part, US President Joe Biden reiterated the United States' determination to abide by the mutual defence treaty it signed with South Korea.

While expressing opposition to any independent South Korean nuclear deterrent, he offered reassurances that the US would boost its own deterrence as an alternative.

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