N. Korea tests most powerful missile since 2017

  |  Sunday, January 30th, 2022 |  4:17 pm

North Korea on Sunday tested its most powerful missile since 2017, ramping up the firepower for its record-breaking seventh launch this month as Seoul warned nuclear and long-range tests could
be next.

Pyongyang has never test-fired this many missiles in a calendar month before and last week threatened to abandon a nearly five-year-long self- imposed moratorium on testing long-range and nuclear weapons.

With peace talks with the US stalled, North Korea has doubled-down on leader Kim Jong Un’s vow to modernise the regime’s armed forces, flexing Pyongyang’s military muscles despite biting international sanctions, reports AFP.

South Korea said Sunday that North Korea appeared to be following a “similar pattern” to 2017 — when tensions were last at breaking-point on the peninsula — warning Pyongyang could soon restart nuclear and intercontinental missile tests.

North Korea “has come close to destroying the moratorium declaration”, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in said in a statement following an emergency meeting of Seoul’s National Security Council.

The frenzy of missiles was also aimed at reminding the world that “the Kim regime hears external discussions of its domestic weaknesses,” said Leif Easley, a professor at Ewha University.

“It wants to remind Washington and Seoul that trying to topple it would be too costly,” he added.

The string of launches in 2022 comes at a delicate time in the region, with Kim’s sole major ally China set to host the Winter Olympics next month and South Korea gearing up for a presidential election in March.

Domestically, North Korea is preparing to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the birth of late leader Kim Jong Il in February, as well as the 110th birthday of founder Kim Il Sung in April.

With reports of soaring food prices and worsening hunger, an economically-reeling Pyongyang recently restarted cross-border trade with neighbouring China.

And ally Beijing, along with Russia, this month blocked the UN Security Council from imposing fresh sanctions in response to the recent tests.