|This photo, released by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Jan. 25, 2024, shows the North’s launch of a Pulhwasal-3-31, a new type of strategic cruise missile, the previous day. / Source: Yonhap News
By AsiaToday reporter Park Young-hoon & Washington correspondent Ha Man-joo
North Korea fired several cruise missiles from its east coast on Sunday. It marks the North’s seventh provocation this year and the second time in a week. Experts say the missiles are likely to be a submarine-launched cruise missile (SLCM).
The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said the South Korean military detected unknown cruise missiles in waters off Shinpo Port, North Korea, at around 8 a.m. “While strengthening our monitoring and vigilance, our military has been closely coordinating with the United States to monitor additional signs of North Korea’s provocations,” the JCS said in a text message sent to reporters.
Unlike ballistic missile launches, the launch of a cruise missile is not a direct violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions. However, North Korea insists that nuclear warheads can be mounted on such missiles, which could pose a serious threat to South Korea’s security.
Amid North Korea’s escalating provocations, the United States asked China to use its influence on the North over its series of provocations during a meeting of senior U.S. and Chinese officials. Analysts say that the U.S. may have begun its management in response to rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula and increased security risks. According to foreign reports, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan asked China to utilize its influence over the North to help address the North Korean nuclear quandary during his talks with China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, in Bangkok on Saturday, citing a senior U.S. official.
“We are deeply concerned about the growing relationship between Russia and the DPRK and what that might mean for (North Korean leader) Mr. Kim’s intentions,” the official said, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “We raised those concerns directly with Chinese given their influence on Pyongyang and we hope these discussions will continue further between our two envoys,” the official added.
“Beijing certainly maintains influence as well,” the official said. As the request comes at a time when North Korea’s military cooperation with Russia is strengthening, attention is being paid to what kind of impact it will bring in the future cooperation among North Korea, China and Russia against the West.