North Korea Launches At Least One Ballistic Missile On Last Day Of Record-Setting Year

(Photo by JUNG YEON-JE/AFP via Getty Images)

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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North Korea launched at least one ballistic missile test Saturday local time, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency warned, as the communist North finished out 2022 with a record number of missile launches.

South Korea’s military alerted the population of an unspecified ballistic missile fired in the direction of the east sea, Yonhap reported, and Japan’s Coast Guard indicated a second missile had also been fired, according to Reuters. The launches come a day after Seoul claimed it successfully tried a space launch vehicle, and just days after the southern country failed to defend against a large North Korean drone incursion.

Pyongyang has blown its previous record of missile launches out of the water in 2022, reaching 92 on Dec. 23, according to The New York Times. If the Dec. 31 tests included two missiles, it would bring the total for the year to 94, versus a previous high of 25 in 2017. (RELATED: Japan Signs Off On Record Defense Budget, Including Billions For American Weapons)

At one point, North Korea fired 29 missiles, including short range missiles and one intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching targets across the ocean, within the space of two days.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un unveiled new military objectives for 2023 at an annual plenary meeting Wednesday, alluding to another year of frequent missile tests and escalating tensions with the West and its democratic neighbors, Reuters reported. Kim pledged to devote the year to the “anti-enemy struggle” and bolstering the country’s national security in light of a “newly created challenging situation,” a report said.

The militarizing country debuted a number of new weapons and furthered the development of others in 2022, including the ICBM, hypersonic gliding warheads and a reconnaissance satellite, according to Reuters.

While the West expected North Korea would conduct a nuclear weapons test sometime during the fall months after North Korea claimed in October it fired two long-range cruise missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, according to state media, it never materialized. However, one could still be in the works for 2023, analysts told Bloomberg on Wednesday.

North Korea continues to bolster its military despite heavy sanctions, a shift from openness in the past toward arms control, the analysts said.

“Based on North Korea’s official pronouncements and media rhetoric since the beginning of the year, as well as its military actions in recent months, it seems unlikely the country will return to the negotiating table in the near term,” Rachel Minyoung Lee, a former analyst for the CIA’s Open Source Enterprise, told Bloomberg.

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