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North Korea Missile Tests increases tensions

People watch a television screen showing a news broadcast with file footage of a North Korean missile test, at a railway station in Seoul on May 25, 2022, after North Korea fired three ballistic missiles towards the Sea of Japan according to South Korea's military. (Photo by JUNG YEON-JE / AFP)

North Korea has launched eight short range ballistic missiles toward the sea off its east coast. South Korea says the missiles were fired from an area of the North Korean capital Pyongyang.

In recent weeks, North Korea has test fired a range of ballistic missiles, including its largest intercontinental ballistic missile.

This comes just one day after South Korea and the United States wrapped up their first combined military drills involving an American aircraft carrier in more than four years.

Pyongyang has frequently protested against joint military exercises involving Seoul and Washington, calling them rehearsals for invasion despite Washington's mantra of diplomacy.

The latest test marks the 18th time that North Korea has fired its missiles this year, including what the US says was a failed intercontinental ballistic missile test on May 4 that exploded shortly after launch.

Last month, North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, said he would strengthen and develop his country's nuclear forces at the highest possible speed.

The administration of US President Joe Biden has failed to restore diplomatic talks with Pyongyang as tensions escalate.

Former US President Donald Trump attempted to court Pyongyang but even though he met with the North Korean leader three times, he refused to relieve any of the sanctions in return for the several steps taken by Pyongyang towards denuclearization.

That hampered further diplomacy between Pyongyang and Washington prompting Kim to announce an end to a moratorium on the country's missile tests.

.. a country that does not have a formidable Arsenal can be subject to US attack because it's considered weak. So this is part of it. Well, if it wants to remain the Hermit Kingdom, it must look to be strong. And unpredictable and this is how it uses it's a military, the projection of its military force.

Greg Simons, Author & Researcher

North Korea, which has been under rounds of crushing UN sanctions since 2006 over its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, has ramped up its missile launches this year.

The sanctions have led to rising levels of poverty and food insecurity. Despite the acknowledged food insecurity in North Korea the United Nations humanitarian response plan does not include an appeal for assistance to North Korea.

A UN World Food Programme report in 2019 concluded that 11 million of North Korea's 25 million people were undernourished and one in every five children was stunted from lack of adequate nutrition.

Last month China and Russia vetoed a US led push at the United Nations for sanctions on North Korea over its renewed ballistic missile launches.

 China, Pyongyang's closest ally, and Russia, whose relations with the West have sharply deteriorated over its "special military operation" in Ukraine, said they would have preferred a non binding statement instead of a fresh resolution against Pyongyang.

Beijing warned that sanctions would equate to an escalation in tensions and dire humanitarian consequences for North Korea, which has been severally affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Meanwhile, Moscow asserts Washington is ignoring appeals by Pyongyang to put a stop to hostile activity.

During the past 16 years the UN Security Council has steadily and unanimously ramped up sanctions to cut off funding for North Korea's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

Since 2017, when the council last stepped up sanctions on Pyongyang, China and Russia have been trying to ease sanctions on humanitarian grounds.

Because it's a coercive power it doesn't want to treat another country on equal or humane terms because it doesn't want to preserve the current leadership of North Korea, (it) wants regime change.

Greg Simons, Author & Researcher

In particular, China's strategic overtures to North Korea since the collapse of US North Korea diplomatic talks in 2019 have drawn the two countries closer.

With tensions rising over the US China competition and the new South Korean Conservative government that has vowed to take a harder line on North Korea and China, Beijing has more incentive to keep Pyongyang close.


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