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Tracking a Week of Escalation in North East Asia

The week past has seen a number of missile launches by North Korea officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in response to United States and South Korean Armed Forces joint exercises to test battle readiness and preventive deterrence.

North Korea's fourth weapons test on March 19 was apparently targeting the Freedom Shield exercise that began on March 13.

On March 16, only several hours before President Yoon Suk Yeol's summit with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo, the North fired a Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile into the East Sea between the two countries ― after launching two short-range ballistic missiles on March 14 and two cruise missiles from a submarine on March 12.

The missile appeared to show an irregular trajectory, which could be a sign of North Korea's highly maneuverable, nuclear-capable KN-23 missile.

Following the launch, the top nuclear envoys of South Korea, the United States and Japan ― Kim Gunn, Sung Kim and Takehiro Funakoshi ― held phone talks in which they agreed to stay united against Pyongyang's provocations at the upcoming U.N. Security Council's meeting in New York. However with China and Russia reluctant to pinpoint blame on North Korea the UNSC has failed to take action against Pyongyang so far.

Why Escalation?

South Korean and US Forces continue to carry out Exercise Freedom Shield to enhance interoperability against a possible threat by the North even as Pyongyang believes that this is only a precursor to an invasion.

The high level of readiness that has been called for is evident with Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup calling for training to "Fight Tonight" defense posture.

For the North which lacks the level of sophistication in terms of combined arms operations as well as the wherewithal for conventional exercises, missile launch is the main reaction. This is expected to continue even as the United States National Security office has indicated that the Exercises will not stop due to North Korean missile escalation.

The missile launch and the ongoing alert with reference to developments in North East Asia including US and South Korea exercises are covered as given below.

Strategic Cruise Missiles

KCNA reported that an underwater launching drill of strategic cruise missiles was staged at dawn of March 12.

The submarine "8.24 Yongung" launched two strategic cruise missiles in the water off Kyongpho Bay on the East Sea of Korea.

The drill confirmed the reliability of the weapon system and examined the underwater-to-surface offensive operation posture of the submarine units that constitute one of the major components of the DPRK nuclear deterrent and successfully achieved its object claimed the report.

The two strategic cruise missiles precisely hit the preset target on the East Sea of Korea after traveling 1 500km-long eight-shaped flight orbits for 7 563s to 7 575s as per the report.

The drill clearly showed the invariable stand of the Korean People’s Army to control with its overwhelming powerful force all the time the present situation in which the U.S. imperialists and the south Korean puppet traitors are getting evermore undisguised in their anti-DPRK military maneuvers, and verified the regular operation posture of the nuclear war deterrence means in different spaces. KCNA reported.

Status of Risk North East Asia

The situation in North East Asia remains extremely fragile as North Korea declared testing of war deterrent - possible missile or a nuclear test even as the US and South Korea commencing a 11 day defensive exercise on March 13.

North Korea held the 5th enlarged meeting of the 8th Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) KCNA revealed on April 12th, guided by Kim Jong Un, general secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, chairman of the WPK Central Military Commission and president of the State Affairs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Importantly present there were members of the WPK Central Military Commission, commanding officers of the Ministry of National Defence, commanding officers of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) services and army corps.

The 5th enlarged meeting of the 8th WPK Central Military Commission discussed the orientations of major political and military activities facing the KPA including the issue of powerfully organizing the nationwide struggle by dispatching the KPA to the major theaters for rapid development in socialist construction, and measures for it as per the KCNA.

As per the Press release, “The meeting discussed and adopted the important practical steps for making more effective, powerful and offensive use of the war deterrent of the country in coping with the present situation in which the war provocations of the U.S. and south Korea are reaching the red-line”.

The decision comes as the US Forces in Korea in a press release stated that, “Combined Forces Command will begin exercise Freedom Shield (FS23) March 13, 2023. The word 'Freedom' in the name refers to the strong will in protecting freedom as an immutable value of the ROK-U.S. Alliance, and 'Shield' symbolizes the defensive nature of the exercise”.

“The exercise will be conducted over an 11-day period and will integrate elements of "live exercises" with constructive simulations,” the release added.

Even though the US forces press release states that the exercise is defensive in nature for North Korea this is a red line.

Thus while providing façade of importance of the rural development etc, the enlarged meeting of the 8th Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea is said to, “be recorded in the history of the country as a significant meeting which further clarified the revolutionary character and nature of the KPA, the army of the Party and the people, and provided a decisive guarantee for the implementation of the programme for rural revolution in the new era and the overall development of socialist construction and made a big stride of practice for the promotion of the people’s wellbeing.

Given the current environment in North East Asia, provocative missile launch by North Korea or even the seventh nuclear test which has been long expected may come about in the coming week.


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