The Korea Herald


North Korea may ramp up provocations after monthlong break

Political events in Beijing, Moscow likely deterred Pyongyang from acting out in past month

By Kim Arin

Published : March 18, 2024 - 16:55

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People watch a news report of North Korea’s launch of a short-range ballistic missile at a train station in Seoul on Monday morning. (Yonhap) People watch a news report of North Korea’s launch of a short-range ballistic missile at a train station in Seoul on Monday morning. (Yonhap)

North Korea fired several short-range ballistic missiles into the sea off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula on Monday morning, just over two hours ahead of an international summit held in Seoul that invited the US secretary of state, and three weeks ahead of South Korea’s National Assembly general election. The firings come more than a month after the launch of a cruise missile in mid-February.

According to South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff, several SRBMs were fired at around 7:44 a.m. from North Hwanghae Province near Pyongyang. The South’s JCS said in the last message to the press at around 10 a.m. that military authorities in Seoul were analyzing the details of the missile launches with their counterparts in the US and Japan.

The last missile firing from North Korea was on Feb. 14, when new cruise missiles were launched toward the sea of the Korean Peninsula.

Yang Uk, a research fellow at Asan Institute of Policy Studies in Seoul, said North Korea had probably been refraining from aggression for the past month in light of political events in China and Russia, like annual plenary sessions and Moscow’s presidential election.

“North Korea is probably going to start to ramp up provocations from now,” he told The Korea Herald. “Pyongyang probably opted for a short-range, rather than a long-range ballistic missile, with its possible summit with Tokyo in mind,” he said, referring to recent news that North Korea is seeking to meet with Japan.

The ruling People Power Party believes North Korea may escalate aggressions ahead of South Korea’s general election and the US presidential election.

Rep. Park Jeong-ha, the People Power Party chief spokesperson, said in a statement Monday that as the risks of “military and cyber provocations” from North Korea were “very high” over the year, greater political fluidity is expected internationally.

“North Korea’s provocations are anticipated to get more frequent and aggressive as the year progresses,” he said.

North Korea’s missile firing appears to be aimed at the meeting of Minister of Foreign Affairs Cho Tae-yul and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, he added.

The main opposition Democratic Party of Korea urged the Yoon Suk Yeol administration to return to a policy of dialogue with North Korea.

“Yoon’s hard-line North Korean policies are escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula. There cannot be peace unless our administration makes efforts to get North Korea return to the table,” the party said in a statement Monday.

The Democratic Party at the same time condemned the SRBM launch as a “clear military provocation that cannot be justified under any context.”

“If North Korea has any desire to be a part of the international community, it must cease its military actions that only isolate itself from the rest of the world.”