North Korea fires 2 short-range ballistic missiles after US submarine arrives in South Korea

North Korea fires 2 short-range ballistic missiles after US submarine arrives in South Korea

In a recent development of heightened tensions, North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles into its eastern sea, as confirmed by South Korea's military on Tuesday. The missile launches, the third in a series since last week, appear to be a protest against the US's deployment of major naval assets to South Korea in a show of force.

The missiles were fired just before midnight from an area near Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, and traveled approximately 400 kilometers (248 miles) before landing in waters off the eastern coast of the Korean Peninsula. South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff labeled these launches a "grave provocation" that threatens regional peace and stability.

In response to North Korea's actions, Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida lodged a formal protest, usually conveyed through the embassy in Beijing. Meanwhile, Tokyo is heightening surveillance efforts and bolstering trilateral security cooperation with Washington and Seoul. Fortunately, no damages have been reported from the missile landings, as they fell outside Japan's exclusive economic zone.

The missile launches occurred shortly after the arrival of a nuclear-propelled US submarine, the USS Annapolis, at a port on Jeju Island. This arrival underscored the joint efforts of the US and South Korea to demonstrate their strategic assets' visibility in the region and potentially intimidate North Korea.

Notably, last week, the USS Kentucky became the first US nuclear-armed submarine to visit South Korea since the 1980s. In response, North Korea conducted test-firings of ballistic and cruise missiles, demonstrating its capability to launch nuclear strikes on South Korea and deploy US naval vessels.

Adding to the tension, the American-led UN Command initiated a conversation with North Korea regarding a US soldier, Pvt. Travis King, who crossed into the North across one of the world's most heavily fortified borders. The situation remains a matter of concern, and attempts to ascertain King's condition and intentions are underway.

Analysts speculate that North Korea may use King's case as leverage to gain concessions from the United States, such as reducing military activities with South Korea. This comes at a time of increased tensions in the Korean Peninsula, with a tit-for-tat cycle of weapons demonstrations and military exercises between North Korea and the United States.

The rising tensions prompted the UN's deputy spokesperson, Farhan Haq, to express concern about North Korea's missile launches, which are clear violations of relevant Security Council resolutions. Haq reiterated the call for de-escalation and the full implementation of these resolutions.

The US and South Korea have responded to the nuclear threats posed by North Korea by expanding their combined military exercises and deploying aircraft carriers, bombers, and submarines in the region.

The presence of the USS Annapolis, powered by a nuclear reactor but armed with conventional weapons, has raised the stakes further. Discussions are underway between the US and South Korean militaries to explore potential training arrangements involving the vessel.

It's important to note that technically, North and South Korea are still at war since a peace treaty was never signed. The upcoming 70th-anniversary observance of their armistice will be marked with solemn ceremonies honoring the fallen, including foreign war veterans.

Amidst the escalating tensions, North Korea is planning significant festivities to celebrate the date as a victory day for the "great Fatherland Liberation War." A military parade in the capital, Pyongyang, may feature leader Kim Jong Un showcasing the country's nuclear-capable missiles aimed at regional rivals and the United States.

Notably, amidst the pandemic-related border controls, North Korea is gradually reopening trade with China to salvage its economy, which has been severely impacted. Foreign guest visits have been rare due to the pandemic, but a Chinese delegation, led by Li Hongzhong, vice chairman of the standing committee of the country's National People's Congress, is expected to attend the celebrations

As the situation unfolds, regional tensions remain high, and the international community closely watches developments in the Korean Peninsula.

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