Seoul (South Korea) -The first of three missiles launched by North Korea in the morning was considered to be an intercontinental ballistic missile, according to the South Korean government. The missiles were launched barely hours after US President Joe Biden left the region after agreeing to strengthen efforts to discourage the nuclear-armed state during his visit.
The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said the three ballistic missiles were fired from the Sunan area of North Korea’s capital.
The launches mark the latest in a blitz of sanctions-busting weapons tests by Pyongyang this year, and come after fears that leader Kim Jong-un would carry out a nuclear test while Biden was in the region.
While in South Korea, Biden joined newly elected President Yoon Suk-yeol for talks, including discussing expanded military exercises to counter Kim’s sabre rattling.
But they also offered to send Covid-19 vaccines as the isolated North is battling its first confirmed outbreak.
On his last day in Seoul, Biden told reporters he had a only a short message for Kim: “Hello. Period.”
And he added that the United States was “prepared for anything North Korea does”.
Kim has recently doubled down on his programme of military modernisation.
Included among Pyongyang’s multitude of tests this year was the firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile at full range.
Political Science professor Yang Moo-jin of the University of North Korean Studies told the Post: “It’s quire rare that the North has conducted various missile tests all at once, involving an ICBM and short and short and middle range missiles.
“This is the first military action that was timed to express its resentment at the outcome of Biden’s trip to South Korea and Japan, which reaffirms the Norths stance that it is ready to opt for confrontation if it’s forced to do so.”
Yang also believes the tests could indicate further problems for the region, “We are going to see tensions on the Korean peninsula rise up to an unprecedented level since the Korean war as the Korean peninsula will be a hotspot where new Cold War-style confrontation unfurls involving the United States and its allies on one side and China and Russia on the other”.
Despite struggling with a recent Covid-19 outbreak, new satellite imagery has indicated the North has resumed construction at a long-dormant nuclear reactor.