As the U.S. and South Korea have tightened their nuclear relationship in the name of “deterring” North Korea, tensions on the peninsula have been rising. This morning, North Korea launched a ballistic missile that landed in the East Sea. It was the second such launch in less than 12 hours, after the North fired one that was also in the direction of the East Sea late Sunday, Dec. 17. That missile flew around 570 km (354 miles) before landing in the water, said the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff. This morning’s missile traveled over 620 miles, after rising on a lofted trajectory. South Korean authorities said it was “a clear provocation” that violated UN Security Council resolutions. U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan also spoke with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts. “The national security advisors condemned the test, which is a flagrant violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions,” said the White House readout.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol on Dec. 18 asked his national security team for an “instant and overpowering response to any North Korean provocations” following the launch of what he said was an intercontinental ballistic missile. In a National Security Council meeting called hours after the test-firing, President Yoon said three-way cooperation with the U.S. and Japan would be bolstered with the real-time North Korean missile data scheme to be activated soon, reported the Korea Herald.
But the North Korean missile tests did not come out of the blue. They were preceded by a meeting of the U.S.-South Korean Nuclear Consultative Group (NCG) on Dec. 15, and the arrival of the USS Missouri, a Virginia-class nuclear-powered attack submarine, in the port of Busan, South Korea yesterday. “The United States reaffirmed its unwavering commitment to provide extended deterrence to [South Korea], backed by the full range of U.S. capabilities including nuclear,” said a White House statement issued after the meeting. “Any nuclear attack by North Korea against the United States or its allies is unacceptable and will result in the end of the Kim regime.…”