January 14th – North Korea fired a suspected intermediate-range ballistic missile into the sea, as reported by South Korea’s military. This launch, the first of its kind this year from North Korea, occurred two months after the regime claimed to have tested engines for a new missile with the capability to strike distant U.S. targets in the region.
The missile was launched from the North’s capital region in the afternoon and traveled approximately 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) before landing in the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan. This action has been labeled a provocation by South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, posing a serious threat to peace in the region. The South Korean military has emphasized its readiness to respond to any further provocations from the North.
Analysts suggest that North Korea might intensify its missile tests to influence the outcomes of the upcoming South Korean parliamentary elections in April and the U.S. presidential election in November. The missile is believed to be a new intermediate-range class, with a solid-fuel engine tested in mid-November. It is primarily designed to target U.S. military bases in Guam and, with range adjustments, could also reach U.S. installations in Japan’s Okinawa.
Solid propellants in the missile make launches harder to detect compared to liquid-fueled missiles, which require pre-launch fueling. North Korea’s existing Hwasong-12 intermediate-range missile uses liquid-fuel engines, indicating a technological advancement with this latest launch.