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Nuri rocket launch could prompt North Korea to test ICBM

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South Korea's first locally-developed space launch vehicle, known as Nuri, lifts off from the Naro Space Center in Goheung, South Jeolla Province, Thursday, Yonhap
South Korea's first locally-developed space launch vehicle, known as Nuri, lifts off from the Naro Space Center in Goheung, South Jeolla Province, Thursday, Yonhap

By Kwon Mee-yoo

South Korea's launch of its first-ever, locally developed space launch vehicle, Thursday, was a partial success. While South Korea vows to succeed in a second launch scheduled for next May, there are increasing concerns that the move might prompt North Korea to develop and test-fire more advanced inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), while claiming it was pursuing a "balance of power on the Korean Peninsula."

Space launch vehicles and intercontinental ballistic missiles share most of the same technology, but the difference is whether they are carrying a satellite or a warhead.

While developing ICBMs which could reach the continental U.S., North Korea test-fired missiles in the past under the pretext of attempting to place satellites in orbit, including its Kwangmyongsong-3, and Kwangmyongsong-4 rockets. But the international community did not accept the claim and North Korea was banned from conducting any ballistic missile activities under multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Pyongyang has continuously demanded an end to Seoul's "double standards," saying it is unfair for the South to describe its own weapons development, tests and military drills as "deterrence," while describing the North's activities as "provocations."

Following the South's launch of the Nuri space rocket, the Japanese daily Yomiuri Shimbun reported Friday that South Korea's rocket development might provide an excuse for North Korea to develop more weaponry including ICBMs.

The BBC also mentioned a possible arms race on the Korean peninsula in its report on the Nuri's launch.

"South Korea is locked in an arms race with North Korea, with both recently test-firing new weapons. The North put a satellite in orbit in 2012," the BBC reported.

North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency released a photo Oct. 20 showing a new type of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) being test-fired from waters the previous day. Yonhap
North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency released a photo Oct. 20 showing a new type of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) being test-fired from waters the previous day. Yonhap

On Sept. 15, South Korea successfully launched an indigenous submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) from underwater, becoming the world's seventh country to do so.

North Korea insists that its military developments are defensive in nature, while the two Koreas continue to compete in an arms race. About a month later, on Oct. 20, North Korea said it test-fired an SLBM near Sinpo, South Hamgyong Province, where its submarine shipyard is located ― a move seen as a reaction to the South's test of its own SLBM.

On the day of Nuri's launch, the North screened a documentary film about the launch of the Kwangmyongsong-4, as if showing off that it was ahead of the South in rocket technology.

Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong said during a National Assembly audit, Thursday, that the North's missile tests violate multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions, while the South's development of weaponry abided by international laws.


Kwon Mee-yoo meeyoo@koreatimes.co.kr


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