North Korea fires two missiles ahead of anniversary of end of hostilities

According to Seoul, North Korea fired two ballistic missiles in the night of Monday to Tuesday, shortly before celebrations of the end of fighting between the two Koreas, which will include Chinese dignitaries for the first overseas trip since the pandemic.

According to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, cited by South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, the South Korean military says it “detected two ballistic missiles fired by North Korea from areas near Pyongyang towards the East Sea (also known as the Sea of ​​Japan) at 11:55 pm on July 24 and midnight on July 25.”

According to the South Korean Defense Ministry cited by Yonhap and Japanese agency Kyodo, the two missiles traveled a distance of about 400 km before falling into the sea.

The White House has condemned these new “ballistic missile firings”.

White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre, using the official Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) name for Pyongyang, said the missile tests “pose a threat to the DPRK’s neighbors and the international community.”

“Our commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan is unwavering,” he said, this time referring to South Korea.

Earlier, Japan announced the first launch and said the projectile landed in the sea outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), according to state broadcaster NHK, citing government officials.

Pyongyang regularly conducts missile tests. “Several cruise missiles” were launched into the Yellow Sea between the Korean Peninsula and China on Saturday.

A US nuclear submarine stopped in South Korea last week, an action Pyongyang said could “fall under the terms of use” of its own nuclear weapons.

Seoul responded to these threats by affirming that any such strikes would mark the “end” of Kim Jong Un’s regime.

And a second US submarine, the nuclear-powered USS Annapolis, arrived at the South Korean naval base at the time of the new missile launch, according to Yonhap.

A North Korean guard post at the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas is seen from the Odusan Unification Observatory in Paju, South Korea, July 19, 2023 (AFP/Archive – Jung Yeon-jae)

In mid-July, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un personally oversaw the launch of the country’s latest intercontinental ballistic missile, the solid-fuel Hwasong-18.

– 70 years after the end of hostilities –

The firing of these last two ballistic missiles before dawn on Tuesday came just before North Korea’s celebration of the 70th anniversary of the end of fighting in the Korean War (1950-1953).

According to the official North Korean agency KCNA, a Chinese delegation led by Politburo member Li Hongzhong is expected to visit North Korea on the occasion, as it will be the first known visit by a foreign delegation since the closure of North Korea’s borders due to the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020.

Relations between the two Koreas are at an all-time low, diplomacy at a standstill, Kim Jong Un has called for an accelerated arms race, including strategic nuclear weapons.

In response, Seoul and Washington held joint military exercises, angering Pyongyang.

Separately, US soldier Travis King is believed to be currently being held in North Korea after illegally entering on July 18.

The Panmunjom Common Security Zone and Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between South Korea and North Korea, May 9, 2023 (AFP/Archive - Anthony Wallace)
The Panmunjom Common Security Zone and Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between South Korea and North Korea, May 9, 2023 (AFP/Archive – Anthony Wallace)

In the context of the agreement that ended hostilities from the Korean War in 1953, “discussions” have begun between the United Nations and Pyongyang about them “through a ceasefire mechanism”, according to General Andrew Harrison, deputy head of the UN Command.

The two Koreas are still officially at war, since the 1950–1953 war ended by an armistice in the absence of a peace treaty.

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