Tensions between North and South Korea have been raised by simultaneous ballistic missile tests carried out by both of the rival states. Each test was clearly meant as a warning for the opposing side of the border. North Korea has boasted about its ballistic missile capabilities and nuclear potential for years now and South Korea has increasingly sought to show that it has powerful conventional missile technology of its own.
Tensions rising in Korea
The dueling tests on Wednesday took place mere hours apart, with the North Korean missile launch detected shortly before South Korea began its own tests.
The two North Korean missiles flew 500 miles before landing just outside of Japanese territorial waters. Both Japan and South Korea detected the launch and commented on the increased tensions it would cause in the region.
South Korea subsequently held a first successful test for a submarine-launched ballistic missile, the first such missile to be used by a country without nuclear weapons.
South Korea is considered to be under the nuclear umbrella of the United States, meaning that the country is protected with a nuclear deterrent despite not controlling its own nuclear weaponry.
Despite this protection, South Korea has recently begun to increase the power of its conventional weaponry under President Moon Jae-in amid continued tensions with the north.
The submarine-launched missile tested on Wednesday is one of the methods being developed by South Korea to target key North Korean facilities in the event that a preemptive strike using conventional weaponry becomes necessary.
North Korea and China increasingly confident
South Korea may understandably be feeling less confident in assurances from the United States following the disaster in Afghanistan.
Conversely, North Korea may be feeling more confident about flouting sanctions and demonstrating its ability to strike American allies now that there is a perception of weakness.
Thousands of American troops are stationed in South Korea, as they have been for decades. How willing America will actually be to use these troops to fight a war in Korea is the important question.
With China increasingly showing aggression towards Taiwan and a growing global understanding that the United States is not interested in any new foreign wars at the moment, North Korea may be feeling very secure in provoking nearby American allies.
South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan are all beginning to understand that they may have to look to their own defenses in the future in the face of rising tensions with both North Korea and China.
Both Koreas were hoping to prove a point to the other with their simultaneous missile tests. Unfortunately it seems that North Korea is almost certainly feeling far more confident in itself at the moment.