SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea’s recent sword blows after months of relative calm clearly show that leader Kim Jong Un is working to expand his arsenal of weapons.
Nuclear capable missiles hidden in trains that can be launched anywhere along a railroad track. A new cruise missile resembling the American Tomahawk that can potentially be topped with atomic warheads. The apparent resumption of the manufacture of fuel for possible nuclear bombs.
So here’s a look at Kim’s recent weapons tests, the first of their kind in six months, and what they can mean for efforts to deal with the North’s nuclear ambitions.
North Korea has called its first tests of train-launched ballistic missiles successful, saying the two weapons launched on Wednesday hit a target at sea 800 kilometers (500 miles) away.
This puts all of South Korea and the US military bases it hosts within easy reach. Experts say the missiles are nuclear capable.
Fire from trains also adds another platform for missile launches – in addition to moving trucks, ground platforms, and an underwater method still being tested. A rail platform uses North Korea’s national rail network and allows covert movement and launch, although experts note that rail networks are vulnerable targets in a crisis.
For South Korea, “who has to defend against North Korean missiles is still a headache,” said Lee Choon Geun, missile expert at the Institute for Science and Technology Policy of South Korea. .
Last weekend, North Korea also tested what it called a new cruise missile, which traveled about 1,500 kilometers (930 miles), making it the longest-range cruise missile in the world. North, capable of reaching all of Japan, which is also home to 50,000 American troops. .
It is developed as being able to harness nuclear power and flies at low altitudes, which makes it more difficult to detect. Its development demonstrates North Korea’s desire to break through enemy lines of defense and to diversify an inventory of heavy weapons into ballistic missiles.
Satellite photos also show signs that North Korea has restarted operations at its main plant producing military-grade plutonium, a key ingredient used to make nuclear weapons.
WHAT KIM WANTS
Kim’s resumption of testing activities is largely intended “for the development of military capabilities, but may also be an attempt to consolidate national unity,” said Leif-Eric Easley, associate professor of international studies at the ‘Ewha Womans University in Seoul. “Pyongyang could launch a provocation even when it desperately needs an economic point of view because it wants to hide its weaknesses and obtain external concessions.”
Kim could also return to a proven technique of pressuring the world with missile launches and outrageous threats before offering last-minute negotiations to extract aid.
“It’s worth watching more how things are going, but it is possible that we are near another phase in the spirit of the (North Korean) chasm,” said Park Won-gon, professor of studies on North Korea at Ewha Womans University.
North Korea’s recent tests could be quiet reactions to continued joint US-South Korean military exercises and South Korean efforts to expand its weapons programs.
Kim’s ultimate goal is likely to achieve relief from crippling international economic sanctions even as he gains recognition of the United States as a nuclear state, allowing him to retain nuclear weapons that he can consider to be. its only guarantee of survival.
North Korea may continue to escalate its pressure campaign, at least until China begins to push for calm ahead of the Beijing Olympics early next year. But it could still withhold more provocative weapon tests because it seeks less coercive diplomacy.
The North will have until around November to advance its weapons development with testing, Park, the analyst said. After that, it may hurt relations with China.
North Korea could also conduct another weapons test on a major state anniversary, such as the founding day of the ruling Workers’ Party on October 10.
“For the weapon capability upgrade, the next in the testing queue may not be a nuclear device or an ICBM but a submarine-based system,” Easley said.
Despite its recent weapons tests, North Korea has maintained a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile testing for more than three years. This suggests that he still wants to keep the chances of future diplomacy with Washington alive.
It is possible that Pyongyang is carefully measuring its actions while seeking a window into diplomacy.
“It would not be surprising if the North soon made efforts to reach out to Washington or Seoul, if only to gauge their intentions,” said Hong Min, analyst at the Korea National Unification Institute. from Seoul.