North Korea Tests Missile Believed Capable of Hitting Japan, Guam

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

The governments of South Korea and Japan confirmed on Tuesday that communist North Korea fired a projectile believed to be carrying a “hypersonic warhead” and potentially capable of striking the American island of Guam.

The missile, identified as an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM), fell into the East Sea (Sea of Japan) and did not cause any damage. It nonetheless represents the latest in an increasing series of military provocations by dictator Kim Jong-un during the presidential term of American Joe Biden, who has not prioritized the North Korean threat during his tenure.

North Korea is believe to have tested three ballistic missiles this year and has boasted, without offering concrete proof, of having developed an “underwater nuclear weapon system,” “the most powerful tanks in the world,” and and increasingly state-of-the-art spy satellites to monitor Seoul and Washington. Kim began the year by declaring that reconciliation with South Korea was impossible and that he would not avoid war with South Korean “scum.”

South Koreans are expected to go to the polls for a national legislative election on April 10. Conservative President Yoon Suk-yeol warned on Tuesday, following the detection of the missile, that Pyongyang would attempt to disrupt the election and scare voters, a prediction he has repeatedly made in the past.

A woman walks past a television screen showing a news broadcast with file footage of a North Korean missile test, at a railway station in Seoul on April 2, 2024. North Korea fired a medium-range ballistic missile on April 2, Seoul’s military said, the latest in a spate of banned weapons tests by Kim Jong Un’s regime this year. (JUNG YEON-JE/AFP via Getty)

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) confirmed the missile launch on Tuesday, describing the missile as a likely IRBM and stating that it was in the air for less than ten minutes before it hit the water. Speaking anonymously to the South Korean news outlet Yonhap, a military official said the latest test appeared to be similar to the two previous ballistic missile launches in 2024.

“North Korea appears to have put a hypersonic warhead on top of the delivery system used in the engine test last month,” the military source told the news agency.

A hypersonic missile, the outlet explained, could hit Seoul from Pyongyang in minutes. An IRBM could threaten all of Japan and go far into the south Pacific, threatening Guam. The Japan Times noted that the test on Tuesday raised alarm for both Japan and Guam but “the depressed trajectory of Tuesday’s test — which makes the missiles harder to detect — may mean it poses a more grave threat to U.S. military bases in Japan.”

North Korea has repeatedly threatened to use nuclear weapons against Guam as it is American territory. The threat of a North Korean attack is a top political issue on the island, where political leaders for years have demanded a firm hand in the White House to meet the Kim regime’s belligerence and protect their population.

“We immediately tracked and monitored the North Korean missile launch, closely shared relevant information with the United States and Japan and are currently comprehensively analyzing the detailed specifications,” the JCS told reporters on Tuesday. “We strongly condemn North Korea’s missile launch as a clear act of provocation that seriously threatens the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula.”

Yoon noted in his public comments after the test that South Korea was preparing for its legislative elections and accused the communists of election interference.

Maxar satellite imagery indicates blue materials laid in a “Y” shape on coastal missile launch pad observed on imagery from March 23, 2024, at SOHAE LAUNCHING STATION, NORTH KOREA.  Analysis by 38 North.  (Satellite image [c] 2024 Maxar Technologies.)

“The North Korean regime is trying to rock our society ahead of the general elections, while continuing missile and other military provocations,” Yoon said. “These provocations will only end up uniting the minds of our people strongly.”

Yoon’s People Power Party (PPP) similarly condemned the missile test as a “scheme” to disrupt democracy in South Korea.
“It’s a scheme aimed at stirring up a conflict within the South by creating inter-Korean military tensions with the elections just around the corner,” party spokesperson Park Jung-ha said, according to the Korea JoongAng Daily. “We must keep an eye on the fact that North Korea’s provocations aimed at escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula are likely to increase in intensity and frequency in the future.”

Yoon similarly warned for disruptions from the North in January.

“For the past 70 years, the North Korean regime has worked tirelessly to bring down the Republic of Korea’s liberal democratic system,” the president said at the time.

“In years with important political events, it has constantly carried out social disturbances, psychological warfare and provocations,” Yoon continued. “This year we expect to see many provocations aimed at interfering in our elections, such as border area provocations, drone infiltrations, disinformation, cyberattacks and rear disturbances.”

Candidates for the April 10 election received official permission to begin campaigning on Thursday. The PPP is facing a fractured and chaotic Democratic Party, the main left-wing party in the country. Democratic Party leader Lee Jae-myung is facing a wave of defections by lawmakers who have dismissed his leadership skills. Three lawmakers – Reps. Cho Eung-cheon, Kim Jong-min, and Lee Won-wook – defected from the party less than a week after an assailant stabbed Lee in the neck during a public event, establishing a movement called “Principle and Common Sense.”

Yoon is also facing a serious challenge to his authority, however: a massive strike by trainee doctors that has left hospitals without thousands of staffers for over a month. The doctors are demanding Yoon halt plans to dramatically expand the number of positions at medical schools, a move the president says is necessary to address chronic doctor shortages nationwide.

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