North Korea flexed its military muscle by firing two ballistic missiles into the waters off the east coast of the Korean peninsula. Meanwhile, Kim Jong-Un visits Russia to discuss an alliance with Putin’s Russia.
Missiles Fired Just Before High-Stakes Meeting
In a display of power, North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea off its east coast, creating a tense backdrop to a meeting between leader Kim Jong Un and President Vladimir Putin in Russia.
Kim’s Unprecedented Trip Abroad
This launch marked a historic moment as it occurred while Kim Jong Un was abroad, a rare instance as the North Korean leader hasn’t stepped foot off home soil since before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Missiles Launched Near Pyongyang
The missiles were launched from an area near North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang, and traveled an impressive distance of about 650 km (404 miles).
Violation of U.N. Resolutions
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff condemned the missile launch, deeming it a clear violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Japan’s Diplomatic Protest
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno swiftly lodged a diplomatic protest against North Korea through channels in Beijing.
Missiles Land Outside Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone
Both missiles landed in the sea outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), alleviating concerns of direct territorial infringement.
A History of Missile Launches
North Korea has regularly conducted missile launches, ranging from short-range missiles to intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) capable of reaching the continental United States.
Defying U.N. Bans
All North Korean ballistic missile and nuclear weapons activities are strictly prohibited by United Nations Security Council resolutions, supported by North Korea’s partners, China and Russia, in 2017.
Calls for Sanctions Easing
China and Russia have consistently called for easing sanctions against North Korea to kickstart diplomatic talks and improve humanitarian conditions.
Kim’s International Travels
Kim Jong Un, who assumed power in 2011, refrained from leaving North Korea for six years. However, in 2018 and 2019, he embarked on nine separate trips to China, South Korea, Singapore, Vietnam, and Russia.
Kim’s Command and Control
The mechanism behind how Kim Jong Un maintains command and control over North Korea’s missile and nuclear forces while abroad remains mysterious. Recent drills, though, have unveiled a system similar to those employed by the United States and Russia.
The Surrogate Decision-Maker
During Kim’s absence, authority would likely be delegated to a high-ranking figure, possibly senior ruling party member Jo Yong Won or top parliamentary lawmaker Choe Ryong Hae. Both come from revolutionary families with deep ties to North Korea’s founder, Kim Il Sung.
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