North Korea test-fires most powerful missile since 2017

Jan 30, 2022: According to a report by the AFP, North Korea on Sunday tested its most powerful missile since 2017, ramping up the firepower for its record-breaking seventh launch this month as South Korea warned nuclear and long-range tests could be next.

South Korea’s military said Sunday it had “detected an intermediate-range ballistic missile fired at a lofted angle eastward towards the East Sea.”

Sunday’s ballistic missile was estimated to have hit a maximum altitude of 2,000 kilometers and flown around 800 kilometers for half an hour, Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

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Pyongyang had never tested so many missiles in a calendar month before, and last week threatened to lift a nearly five-year ban on long-range and nuclear weapons tests. With the stalemate in peace talks with the United States, North Korea has doubled its commitment to modernizing the armed forces of leader Kim Jong Un’s government, twisting Pyongyang’s military muscles despite international sanctions.

South Korea said on Sunday that it appeared North Korea was following a “similar pattern” to 2017 – when tensions on the peninsula were at an all-time high – warning Pyongyang would soon resume nuclear and intercontinental missile tests.

Pyongyang has tested two hypersonic missiles this month, as well as four launches of short-range ballistic and cruise missiles. Last week, leader Kim was photographed by state media inspecting an “important” armaments factory that manufactures “a large arsenal of weapons.”

The series of launches in 2022 comes at a critical time in the region, with Kim’s only major ally China hosting the Winter Olympics next month and South Korea preparing for the presidential election in March.

Economically troubled Pyongyang has recently resumed cross-border trade with neighboring China, amid reports of rising food prices and rising hunger. Meanwhile, North Korea’s regional ally Beijing, along with Russia, blocked the UN Security Council this month from imposing new sanctions in response to recent tests.

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