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Dealing with North Korea's Missile Tests
(voakorea.com)

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula rise with North Korea’s 10th missile provocation carried out in Pyongyang on March 16th . There is no solution to North Korea’s missile testing due to the opposing international situation where the United States (U.S.) proposes nucleardisarmament while North Korea remains with stiff opposition. Along with change and the reactions of each country, the Sungkyun Times (SKT) would like to analyze the outline of North Korea’s missileprovocations, South Korea’s response, and the possibility of war.

Provocations by North Korea

North Korea’s Provocations and Missile Development

After the division of Korea many years ago, North Korea has committed various provocations such as infiltrating spies, developing nuclear weapons, and launching missiles for the communization of South Korea. Inter-Korean relations have progressed until 2018; however, in 2019, the relationship began to deteriorate as North Korea launched several missile tests. Unlike South Korea, which has restricted missile research since the 1980s under an alliance with the U.S., North Korea has continued to develop more effective missiles and reached an eye-opening level. In 2016, they also succeeded in developing a SubmarineLaunchedBallistic Missile (SLBM) using solid fuel that enables surprise attacks by preventing detection of signs of launching a missile. Currently, North Korea is developing missiles with nuclear weapons.

Types and Technologies of Missile in North Korea

A missile is a guided rocket for pinpoint-attacking a target. The missiles of North Korea are categorized by range - short, medium, intermediate, or intercontinental - and subcategorizedinto Cruise Missiles (CM) and Ballistic Missiles (BM). A CM is a missile that flies straight at an approximately constant speed, based on the same principle as an airplane. This missile allows precise control and flies at various heights, preventing it from being detected. A BM is a missile based on the principle of a rocket that flies in the shape of an arc in the upper atmosphere. Due to its high launch expense, a BM often carries weapons of mass destruction such as nuclear or chemical weapons. According to inside sources, North Korea has various missiles, including Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) and Hypersonic Ballistic Missiles (HBM). The development of those missiles has been a controversial issue in the international community. Since their range is very long, they can threaten and immediately attack the U.S. and European countries; therefore, North Korea continues to develop them in order to put a threat on those countries.

Actions of South Korea

Korea Air and Missile Defense (KAMD)

System of KAMD (yna.co.kr)

Although South Korea stopped developing high-risk missiles, South Korea established KAMD, a defense system to intercept missiles in the air instead. A missile goes through three phases of flight: the boost phase (the booster engines operate until it reaches the peak), the midcourse phase (the missile heads towards its target), and the terminal phase (the warhead moves down toward the target). KAMD has an intercepting system that focuses on the missiles in the terminal phase. If North Korea launches a missile, the SPY-1 radar and the Super Green Pine radar detect it and report it to the Air and Missile Defense Cell (AMD-Cell). Thus, an anti-ballistic ship-based surface-to-air missile such as a Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) or an anti-ballistic medium-range surface-to-air missile such as the Cheongung intercept detected missiles. Unfortunately, KAMD detects a missile about 100 seconds after the missile’s launch due to the absence of an early warning satellite that is based on the Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS). However, despite KAMD’s limitations, there is a possible solution. When LongrangeSurface-to-Air Missile (L-SAM), a Long-Range Ballistic Missile (LRBM) and anti-aircraft system, enters service, a system that can defend from the upper reaches of the terminal phase can be established. If improvements are made in the systematization of missile defense and development of the possibility of realization, KAMD will be South Korea’s independent defense system.

Cooperation with Neighboring Countries

Korea, U.S., Japan Meet in Hawaii (reuters.com)

To establish a peace structure on the Korean Peninsula, cooperation with neighboring countries, including China, Japan, and the U.S., is necessary. On February 12th, the U.S., South Korea, and Japan met in Hawaii to discuss the situation on the Korean Peninsula. Those three nations released a joint statement calling upon North Korea to engage in dialogue and cease its missile launch. Also, they said they had no hostile intent toward North Korea and were open to meetings without preconditions. As such, those three countries and South Korea promised to cooperate to achieve complete denuclearization and establish permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula. Furthermore, Noh Kyu-duk, a Special Representative of Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs, discussed with his Chinese counterparts about the management of the situation on the Korean Peninsula and said that communication between all sides should be strengthened to resolve the issue of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile launches.

Government’s Position to Maintain Peace

The government has been trying to reunify with the North by agreement and lower the possibility of war on the Korean Peninsula. For example, South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook declared that he does not see the missile launch on January 5th as a provocation, saying, “Militarily, the term ‘provocation’ is defined only when missiles fly into the south of the Northern Limit Line, territorial waters or sky.” Also, a senior Blue House official said he analyzed that North Korea launched the missile to show its presence when the foreign press had been focusing on the Beijing Olympics, the 20th presidential election of South Korea, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Accordingly, the government sees that the missile launches did not intend to end all South-North talks. Although this attitude was criticized for being insensitive to security, it is evaluated as an act for promoting peace in the world through the stability of the Korean Peninsula.

Will It Expand into War?

The Probability of War

Since the South Korean government did not judge North Korea’s missile launch as a provocation, it is implausible that missile launches will lead to war. According to the Korea International Trade Association, North Korea is isolated, and more than 90% of its trade depends on China. Due to the sanctions imposed against North Korea in 2019, exports decreased from $200 million to $20 million, compared to four years ago. To make matters worse, as trade with China was cut off due to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), exports decreased again by one-tenth to $2 million. Eventually, exports reduced by one-hundredth in five years. According to Shin Bum-cheol, Director of the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security, North Korea has chosen missile provocations to turn people’s attention to the Korean Peninsula and thereby solve internal economic problems. Therefore, it seems a bit far to regard the missile launch as a sign of the war.

World Summit 2022 (jbnews.com)

Efforts to Prevent War

Peaceful unification on the Korean Peninsula is no longer just a matter of East Asia but has become a requisite for peace and stability beyond. According to the Seoul Declaration 2022, the peacekeeper, a non-military workforce, will be placed in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Arranging the peacekeeper can remind people about the meaning of the DMZ, which prohibits military force. North Korea has been preventing the multiplication of COVID-19 through passage control. However, as a result, North Koreans are dying of malnutrition and disease due to a sharp drop in cash income. Therefore, South Korea can help North Korea to overcome the COVID-19 situation by sending emergency relief or vaccine supplies. Like this, if the inter-Korean relations normalize and the humanitarian crisis in North Korea improves, it will be a significant opportunity for peace on the Korean Peninsula.

At the World Summit 2022, Han Hak-ja, President of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, emphasized that global efforts for world peace have become more desperate than ever. Peace is now desperately needed in an international society full of tension due to the prolonging pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It is time for Kingos to think about universal peace as global citizens, not to dismiss it as a story that comes from far away.

정민주  sophiejmj@g.skku.edu

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