Earlier this week North Korea fired three ballistic missiles into Japan’s exclusive economic zone in the Sea of Japan in an apparent signal of North Korea’s displeasure with ongoing G-20 talks being held in Hangzhou, China. These missile launches, which were “in flagrant disregard” to North Korea’s international obligations as well as international sanctions, brought a strong condemnation from the United Nations Security Council and threatened “further significant measures” if North Korea refuses to halt future nuclear and missile tests. North Korea responded with it’s own statement:
“The DPRK categorically rejects this as an intolerable act of encroaching upon its dignity, right to existence, sovereignty and right to self-defence.”
Early Friday it was reported that North Korea conducted a nuclear weapons test as a magnitude 5 earthquake was detected near the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in northeastern North Korea. A South Korean Defense Ministry official, who refused to be named because of office rules, said that an estimated explosive yield of 10 kilotons was detected and it was assessed to have come from a nuclear test. A test later confirmed on North Korea state television.
This is the fifth such test by North Korea since 2006, all in violation of United Nations resolutions and denounced by foreign officials. South Korean President Park Geun-hye condemned the test, saying North Korea demonstrated “fanatic recklessness“. China released a statement which said they were, “resolutely opposed to North Korea’s latest nuclear test and strongly urges North Korea to stop taking any actions that will worsen the situation”. Ned Price, spokesperson for the U.S. National Security Council, said, “we are aware of seismic activity on the Korean Peninsula in the vicinity of a known North Korean nuclear test site. We are monitoring and continuing to assess the situation in close coordination with our regional partners.”
The concern for many is that these nuclear and missile tests by North Korea indicate a furtherance of North Korea nuclear and missile technology in a pursuit to be able to reach the United States homeland. In the statement on state television confirming the most recent nuclear test North Korea also said it was “now capable of mounting nuclear warheads on ballistic rockets”. Recently North Korea has threatened a “preemptive nuclear strike” in the face of any perceived U.S. or South Korean aggression.
And while such North Korean threats may be dismissed by some due to Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un’s propensity for provocative rhetoric, the threat posed by North Korea to it’s neighbors and to the United States should be taken seriously. Especially as Jong-un has banned sarcasm.