North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles on Tuesday, Seoul said the day after the kickoff of the largest joint maneuvers with the United States in five years. "Our military detected two short-range ballistic missiles fired...between 7:41 a.m. and 7:51 a.m." which flew a distance of approximately 620 kilometers, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
"Our armed forces have increased their surveillance and vigilance in anticipation of further launches, while standing ready to intervene within the framework of close cooperation between South Korea and the United States," he said. added. Japanese government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno said the missiles did not land in Japanese waters. Tokyo suspects North Korea of wanting to engage in "further provocations".
On Sunday, Pyongyang launched two cruise missiles from a submarine, on the eve of the start of joint exercises between Seoul and Washington dubbed "Freedom Shield", which should last at least ten days and focus on "the evolution of the "security environment" due to North Korea's redoubled aggressiveness, the allies said.
Pyongyang claimed the launch was aimed at testing its "nuclear deterrents in different spaces", while criticizing exercises between the two allies. This type of maneuver, intended according to the two allies to fight against the growing threats from Pyongyang, arouses the ire of North Korea. She views them as dress rehearsals for an invasion of her territory and regularly promises "crushing" action in response. The South Korean military said the drills would involve "wartime procedures to repel potential North Korean attacks and conduct a stabilization campaign in the North."
In 2022, Pyongyang called its status as a nuclear power "irreversible" and conducted a record number of ballistic tests in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. Last week, leader Kim Jong-un ordered his army to step up military maneuvers for "real war".
If Pyongyang systematically justifies its missile tests by pointing the finger at military exercises in the South, it is also to serve a national objective, argues Leif-Eric Easley, professor at Ewha University in Seoul. "A lot of it is about the Kim regime not appearing weak as it struggles economically at home and as South Korea manages to build up its conventional firepower and partnerships in security," he told AFP. “As a result, we can expect further shows of force from Pyongyang. ".
Washington has repeatedly reaffirmed its "unwavering" commitment to defending South Korea using "the full range of its military capabilities, including nuclear." For its part, South Korea wants to appease a public that seems worried about the United States' commitment to so-called extended deterrence, which wants Washington's military means, including nuclear weapons, to be used to prevent attacks against his allies.
Thus, Washington and Seoul carried out joint aerial exercises last week with a nuclear-capable American B-52 heavy bomber. Analysts have previously said North Korea would likely use the maneuvers as a pretext to launch more missiles or even a nuclear test. “Further missile launches, with variations in style and range, or even a nuclear test are to be expected. Further acts of intimidation from North Korea should come as no surprise,” said Chun In-bum, a retired South Korean army general.