Both North and South Korea test-fired ballistic missiles on Wednesday, signaling rising tensions between the two countries.
On Monday, North Korea said it launched a new long-range cruise missile, marking Pyonyang’s first missile test since March. On Wednesday, North Korea fired two ballistic missiles off its east coast and a few hours later, South Korea launched a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).
Seoul’s missile launch means South Korea is the first non-nuclear armed state to have developed an SLBM, and it is part of a range of new military systems the country is developing. South Korea also released footage on Wednesday showing tests of other new missiles, including a supersonic anti-ship cruise missile, a weapon described as a “high power” ballistic missile, and a long-range air-to-surface missile.
South Korea’s scramble to develop and test new missiles comes after the Biden administration lifted restrictions that banned Seoul from developing long-range missiles. Previously, South Korea could not develop missiles with a range greater than 800km (497 miles). While South Korea’s weapons development is mainly focused on North Korea, the loosened restrictions mean Seoul could develop missiles that would be able to reach other countries.
The missile tests come amid stalled efforts to revive nuclear talks between the US and North Korea. The Biden administration is still calling for the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which is a non-starter for talks with Pyongyang. A more realistic approach would be to start with an offer for sanctions relief in exchange for a freeze in North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.