North Korea missile launch: In another show of brazen force, North Korea test-fired two more short-range ballistic missiles to sea on Tuesday (March 14). This comes a day after the United States and South Korea began military drills that Pyongyang views as an invasion rehearsal.
In a statement, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missiles launched from the southwestern coastal town of Jangyon flew across North Korea before landing in the sea off that country's east coast. It further stated that both missiles travelled about 620 kilometres (385 miles).
South Korean military terms it as 'grave provocation'
According to the reported flight distances, the missiles appeared to be aimed at South Korea, which is home to 28,000 US troops. The South Korean military referred to the launches as "a grave provocation" that jeopardises regional peace on the Korean Peninsula.
The US Indo-Pacific Command declared that its allies are not immediately under danger from the launches on Tuesday. But it said the North's recent tests highlight the “destabilizing impact” of the North's unlawful weapons programs and that the US security commitment to South Korea and Japan remains “ironclad”.
Concerns about its nuclear programme have risen considerably after North Korea test-fired more than 70 missiles in 2022, many of them nuclear-capable weapons, and publicly threatened to use them in future confrontations with the United States and South Korea.
North Korea enlarges its weapons arsenals
North Korea appears to be using long-stalled talks with Washington and the expanding US-South Korean drills as a chance to enlarge its weapons arsenals to increase its leverage in future dealings with the United States.
The North Korean threats, along with China's increasing assertiveness, have pushed the US to seek to reinforce its alliances with South Korea and Japan. But some experts say a solidified Washington-Seoul-Tokyo cooperation could prompt Pyongyang, Beijing and Moscow to strengthen their own trilateral ties.
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US raises concern over North Korea's 7th nuclear test
Earlier on Monday, March 13, the US raised concern over a possible 7th nuclear test by North Korea and urged the international community to take concerted action in response to such a destabilising event. "North Korea has finalized all of the steps it would need to take to conduct what would be its 7th nuclear test. A 7th nuclear test would be a dangerous provocation that would itself constitute a significant threat to peace and security in the region," stated Ned Price, spokesperson of the US State Department.
It should be mentioned here that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's assertion on September 8, 2022, that his country will never abandon its nuclear weapons and the growing speculations that it is preparing for its seventh nuclear explosion has raised many questions in South Korea and its "Security Treaty partner" US.
(With inputs from AP)