Korean Arms Race Hots Up, Seoul and Pyongyang Fire Missiles Hours Apart From Each Other

The rival Koreas have test-launched ballistic missiles hours apart from each other. South Korea claims to have conducted its first underwater missile test just hours after North Korea fired two ballistic missiles into the sea.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said the North launched the two missiles on Wednesday from a site in the center of the country. Hours later, South Korea said it had carried out a first-ever test of an underwater-launched missile.

South Korea Answers with Landmark Weapons Test of its Own

Presidential office said in a statement that President Moon Jae-In supervised the test of the ballistic missile on Wednesday afternoon. It said a domestically built missile fired from a 3,000-ton-class submarine flew a previously set distance before hitting a designated target, according to The Associated Press.

The statement said the weapon is expected to help South Korea deter potential external threats, boost its self-defense posture and promote peace on the Korean Peninsula. Video released by the South Korean Ministry of Defense showed a submarine sailing at the surface, and then cut to a clip that showed a missile emerging from beneath the sea and flying skyward, according to CBS News.

Nuclear-Armed North Fired "Two Unidentified Ballistic Missiles"

North Korea launched two ballistic missiles toward the sea, defying UN resolutions for the second time in a few days. The missiles were launched from central North Korea and travelled 800 kilometers (497 miles) with an apogee of 60 kilometers (37 miles) before landing in the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, according to South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"It's extraordinary timing that you have not one but two Koreas testing ballistic missiles on the same day," Yonsei University professor John Delury told AFP news agency.

"It does speak to the fact that there's an arms race in this region that everyone needs to pay attention to."

North Korean Missile
Representational Image IANS

A Message to China?

The tests came as South Korea and China held meetings in an effort to get the North to resume denuclearization talks. It's unusual for North Korea to make provocative launches when China, is engaged in a major diplomatic event, according to AP.

However, analysts believe Pyongyang's launch was timed to send a clear message to Beijing, the North's major ally and biggest aid provider, despite their tense relationship at times.

Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said Wednesday's launches "looks like North Korea's indirect message and even request to Beijing for the Korean peninsula to be addressed as a central agenda issue for China".

"At the same time, Pyongyang seems to be claiming and stressing that North Korea is taking the lead in the Korean peninsula issue," he told AFP news agency.