Arms race and stalled dialogue on the Korean peninsula

After the sharp rise in tensions on the Korean Peninsula due to near-simultaneous missile testing by the North and the South, Seoul is seeking to calm things down. South Korean President Moon Jae-in commemorated Friday (September 17th) the 30e anniversary of the entry into the United Nations (UN) of the two Koreas, “Their first step towards international dialogue and cooperation”. He expressed hope for the support of the United Nations in the efforts for regional peace and prosperity, while acknowledging that there remained “Much to do for complete denuclearization and permanent peace on the peninsula”.

These soothing words come on top of the commitments made on September 16 by the Americans and South Koreans, which “Share the sense of urgency to resume dialogue” with North Korea and “Progress in the negotiations on denuclearization”.

This position contrasts with the tension observed on September 15, which led the UN Security Council to meet urgently to discuss the firing by North Korea, on September 11 and 12, of two ballistic missiles which traveled 800 km before crashing in the East Sea (Sea of ​​Japan).

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Less than three hours after the fire, a statement from Seoul revealed Mr. Moon’s presence at a submarine test of the MSBS sea-to-ground ballistic missile, conducted by the Defense Development Agency (ADD).

Gradual rise in tensions

This same press release also revealed the development of a new cruise missile, an air-to-surface missile to equip the KF-21 Boramae fighter jets under development by the conglomerate Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), and d ‘a ballistic missile powerful enough to pierce North Korea’s underground defenses. South Korea now has“Sufficient deterrence to respond at any time to provocations from North Korea”, concluded Mr. Moon.

To which Kim Yo-jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, responded by threatening to “Complete destruction” inter-Korean relations and condemning “Seoul’s illogical attitude”, which considers its ballistic missile fire to be “Legitimate actions to support peace, and our actions as a threat to peace”.

The shootings testify to a gradual rise in tensions on the Korean peninsula, accelerated since August. After months of almost non-existent communications, North Korea reacted to the holding of combined maneuvers between South Korea and the United States at the end of August by threatening to “Major security crisis”. The IAEA subsequently expressed concern over a revival of the North Korean nuclear complex’s reactor in Yongbyon and uranium enrichment activities in the North. The last North Korean tests were carried out two days after the official news agency KCNA announced the success of the shootings of “Long-range cruise missiles” hitting targets 1,500 km from their launch point.

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