North Korean cruise missile tests add to country’s provocative start to 2024
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea’s weekend test of new cruise missiles for submarine launches added to its provocative start to 2024, as leader Kim Jong Un flaunts his growing nuclear arsenal and threatens nuclear conflict with Washington, Seoul and Tokyo.
Kim has gained confidence from the advancement of his nuclear weapons program and from strengthened ties with Russia as he looks to break out of diplomatic isolation and strengthen his footing against the United States.
Kim also likely wants to maintain a sense of external threat as he seeks tighter control over a populace suffering from prolonged economic woes.
North Korea’s military actions and hostile statements in January have raised concerns that it is ramping up pressure in an election year in the United States and South Korea.
Days after a year-end political conference at which Kim accused South Korea of hostility, North Korea fired hundreds of artillery rounds on three consecutive days near a disputed western sea boundary with South Korea, prompting the South to conduct similar firings in response.
While the artillery fire caused no known casualties or damage on either side, the disputed sea boundary could emerge as a crisis point.
At a Jan. 15 meeting of North Korea’s rubber-stamp parliament, the Supreme People’s Assembly, Kim reiterated that his country does not recognize the Northern Limit Line, which was drawn up by the U.S.-led U.N. Command at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. North Korea insists upon a boundary that encroaches deeply into waters currently controlled by South Korea.
Kim said if South Korea “violates even 0.001 millimeter of our territorial land, air and waters, it will be considered a war provocation.”
Concerns about a