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North Korea provokes massive robot tests

The latest provocation from North Korea on Wednesday was unusually widespread. According to information from the South Korean army, a total of 23 robots were launched.

There is clearly concern in the South Korean capital, Seoul, about what is happening and why it is happening now. But there’s no panic, says Niklas Swanstrom, based in Seoul. Swanstrom is director of the Research Institute for Security Policy and Development (ISDP) and closely follows developments on the Korean peninsula.

According to the South Korean military, at least seven of the missiles were ballistic robots.

“North Korea’s robotic launch is highly unusual and unacceptable because it landed near South Korean territorial waters south of the Northern Border Line for the first time,” said Kang Shin-chul, chief of operations at the South Korean military command.

Six miles from Earth

The South Korean military described the missile as an “unidentified ballistic robot” that was moving toward the island before hitting the sea, according to Yonhap News Agency. The robot must have landed 5.7 miles from the mainland.

The military also says North Korea has fired artillery shells into a naval “buffer zone”.

– South Korea will respond to this. But you should know that a lot of people in South Korea are relatively familiar with this. Swanstrom says it’s a provocation, but South Korea is above all interested in not escalating the conflict.

But South Korea must respond to the provocation, as the military leadership later said that it had conducted its own experiments by launching three robots from the air.

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Nuclear weapons tests are possible

Ho Myung-hyun, a researcher at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul, is following North Korea’s next step.

– I wouldn’t be surprised if they lead to a nuclear weapons test, he told the Associated Press.

Swanstrom agrees that:

– I think there is a risk of testing nuclear weapons within a relatively short period of time. It is nuclear weapons testing or submarine launches that are in danger. This is perhaps the most provocative matter from the North Korean side.

The North Korean launches come hours after Pyongyang threatened to use nuclear weapons in retaliation for joint South Korean and US military exercises in the region that involved about 240 warplanes.

South Korea will respond to North Korea’s robotics tests. But there is no panic on the streets here in Seoul. The main topic of conversation, says Niklas Swannstrom, is the terrible disaster that occurred during the Halloween festivities when more than 150 people died.

That’s how far North Korea’s ballistic robotics go. Photo: Anders Humlebo / TT