The Year 2023 was anticipated to be marked by the action-reaction of exercises by US and South Korea and response by North Korea in terms of testing and firing of various types of missiles, nuclear preparations and so on.
This is a high risk scenario against the backdrop of War in Ukraine and tensions in US and China relations.
Reuters reported that on February 18, North Korea launched a long-range ballistic missile into the sea off Japan's west coast which Japanese authorities indicated fell in Japan's exclusive economic zone.
This was followed by launching of a series of projectiles and now North Korea claims that it has tested the large missile launchers.
North Korean media in turn condemned for “an open meeting of the UN Security Council on February 20, at which they again took issue with the DPRK over its exercise of the right to self-defense. We are very displeased with the fact that they put a sovereign state’s legitimate right to self-defense on the agenda of the UNSC, and strongly protest and denounce them”.
“If the UNSC has a true intention to contribute to peace and security on the Korean peninsula, it will have to condemn in the strongest terms the U.S. and south Korea for their moves of escalating military tension, including frequent deployment of strategic assets and large-scale joint military drills against the DPRK,” the KCNA added.
Days after on February 23, claimed to have fired four strategic cruise missiles. The four Hwasal-2 cruise missiles flew 2,000 kilometers in about two hours and 50 minutes before hitting a "preset target" in the sea off North Korea's east coast, according to the Korean Central News Agency.
The missile launch was claimed to be in response to combined drills by the South Korean Forces and US Forces in Korea. "The drill clearly demonstrated once again the war posture of the DPRK nuclear combat force bolstering up in every way its deadly nuclear counterattack capability against the hostile forces," KCNA statement said.
Interestingly South Korea and Japan did not issue alerts when North Korea launched the cruise missiles and South Korea's military disputed North Korea's claim about the cruise missiles, without specifying what portion it believed was inaccurate.
North Korea had halted weapons testing activities for some time in 2023 and the last test firing occurred on January 1. Over 70 missiles were launched in 2022 which is a record number for a single year.
The series of missile tests and corresponding exercises indicates that the spiral of escalation on the Korean Peninsula is set to continue in the days ahead.