In early 2024, North Korea is demonstrating its military prowess by testing new cruise missiles designed for submarine launches. This marks another step in a series of provocations aimed at Washington, Seoul, and Tokyo, and underscoring the growing nuclear threat from Kim Jong Un’s regime.
Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s leader, appears to be gaining confidence from the advancements in his nuclear program and strengthened ties with Russia. This is enabling him to emerge from diplomatic isolation and strengthen his position against the United States.
At the same time, Kim aims to maintain a sense of external threat to tighten control over a population suffering from prolonged economic difficulties. These actions raise concerns about a potential escalation in an election year in the United States and South Korea.
Following a year-end political conference, North Korea tested hundreds of artillery rounds near a disputed maritime boundary with South Korea, prompting reciprocal firings from the South.
This was part of a series of military actions by North Korea, which also included the launch of a new solid-fuel intermediate-range missile with a hypersonic warhead on January 14. These missiles, which can be readied for launch more quickly and are harder for adversaries to detect, demonstrate Kim Jong Un’s ambition for more powerful and elusive weapons.
During the January 15 meeting of the Supreme People’s Assembly, Kim Jong Un announced a shift away from the goal of reconciliation with South Korea and changed the constitution to declare the South as its primary enemy. This indicates North Korea’s intention to take a more aggressive stance in international affairs.
Kim Jong Un’s recent actions, including the test-firing of cruise missiles, send a clear signal of his intention to build a nuclear navy capable of countering external threats. However, experts question North Korea’s actual ability to create an effective submarine fleet capable of reliable and stealthy attacks.
This escalation in military activities and hostile rhetoric by North Korea highlights the growing tensions on the Korean Peninsula and the need for vigilance in the face of potential regional instability. The international community remains concerned about the implications of North Korea’s actions for regional security and the broader implications for global peace and stability.