Gunfights military drills the shadow of Russia Why tensions on

Gunfights, military drills, the shadow of Russia… Why tensions on the Korean Peninsula are a cause for concern

In recent days, North Korea has unleashed an unprecedented series of fires toward the waters of its southern neighbor and Japan. To the point that these regions were on high alert. A particularly worrying tension at a time when Americans and South Koreans are conducting joint military exercises and the global geopolitical situation appears highly unstable.

Ballistic missile fire from North Korea failing not far from South Korean and Japanese waters, belligerent statements on one side and the other, and an international Bronca on Pyongyang. At first glance, the tension that has shaken the Far East in recent days seems almost routine. In fact, the endless attempts of the North Korean dictatorship have allowed world opinion to become accustomed to a form of indifference to these short-lived fevers.

However, this is of a completely different nature. For as the aggressiveness of Kim Jong-un’s communist regime increases, so does the anger of its neighbors and Americans. Worse still, the global geopolitical situation against the backdrop of the Russo-Ukrainian war is further exacerbating this already damaging climate. takes stock of this unique crisis this Thursday.

The threat has never been closer in 70 years

23 shots. This is the number of ballistic missile launches North Korea has conducted toward the waves bordering South Korea, and even then it’s a minimum estimate. Above all, the threat is getting closer.

In fact, one of those shots, which grazed the South Korean island of Ulleungdo, triggered an air raid alert there. The South Korean president made his anger clear in a statement.

“The North Korean provocation is a de facto territorial invasion,” he said.

The head of state said it was “the first time” that a missile had crossed “the division’s northern boundary line.”

The division has been recorded since 1953 and the conclusion of an agreement officially suspending hostilities between the North (Communists) and the South (Pro-American), opened by the invasion of the Second by the First. Since then, the two sides of the peninsula have faced each other like earthen dogs on either side of the 38th parallel, a boundary that also separates their respective ocean zones. Limit that North Korea is said to have crossed this Wednesday.

Without confirming this transgression, the South Korean army has also referenced this 70-year-old conflict, stating that the missile that bordered Ulleungdo Island was the closest shot to within national sovereign waters since 1953.

shots that race

Beyond that closeness, the tension it conveys holds the attention. “North Korea tested almost as many ballistic missiles in one day as it did during the entire reign of Kim Jong-il between 1994 and 2011,” observed Antoine Bondaz, a researcher specializing in Korea at the Research Foundation, to the Parisian after the day Wednesday.

According to the daily count, North Korea fired 44 missiles in 2022 alone, significantly more than in previous years. In all, as noted by Agence France Presse, a hundred artillery barrages need to be added around the sea divide.

Obviously, such fireworks could not go unanswered. Seoul also responded by firing three surface-to-air missiles in the same area.

Vigilant Storm in choppy waters

This burst exchange is particularly sensitive in that it occurs in the middle of joint South Korean and American aviation maneuvers. These are currently involved in Operation Vigilant Storm, which involves hundreds of aircraft for each of the two states.

It is quite simply the most important joint effort in the history of the two nations. A “vigilant storm” that North Korea regards as a “provocation” justifying the conduct of its own actions.

Japan at the top

And the affair doesn’t reduce to a duel with foils – less and less speckled – between the Koreas as those involved multiply.

Japan is thus at the forefront of this latent conflict. Around midnight on Wednesday night, North Korea fired three ballistic missiles – including an ICBM – at the Sea of ​​Japan and the Japanese archipelago for France. This prompted warnings from Japanese television, while the state temporarily halted train service.

It must be said that when these projectiles were damaged in the Sea of ​​Japan, the Empire for a time believed in an overflight of its territory. If that wasn’t the case this time, on October 4th, a North Korean missile was well profiled over Japanese land for the first time in five years.

An echo of the war in Ukraine

From Japan, whose Prime Minister Fulio Kishida spoke of “intolerable outrage,” to Emmanuel Macron’s France, who on Wednesday castigated Pyongyang’s “new unacceptable provocations,” condemnation of North Korea is universal.

And recent American comments are unlikely to calm international fears. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby on Wednesday accused North Korea of ​​”covertly supporting Russia’s war against Ukraine.” In this case, Washington ensures that North Korea shipped many shells to Moscow while trying to fake imports from Africa and the Middle East.

Towards a new nuclear test?

Barring the outbreak of open conflict, one would think the escalation had peaked. However, one rung remains: The United States, South Korea, but also the International Atomic Energy Agency fear loudly that Kim Jong-un and his family will carry out a new nuclear test and thus resume a thread that was interrupted in 2017.

It would be the seventh such experience for the totalitarian state. Which further expands his harassment power and heightens the surrounding nervousness.


Robin Verner Journalist BFMTV