The Inevitability of an Arms Race on Korean Peninsula

On June 6, South Korea and the United States test-fired eight ballistic missiles, a day after North Korea test-fired eight of its own ballistic missiles, offering a snapshot of an arms race that has been going on for some time. Since 2019, North Korea has resumed testing its missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles it tested earlier this year, lifting its 2017 self-imposed moratorium on nuclear weapons and missile tests. Just during the first half of 2022, it has test-fired over 30 missiles, breaking its 2019 record of 25. A seventh nuclear test seems imminent judging from recent activities at North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear testing site. After Kim Jong Un defended his acceleration of the arms buildup at a meeting of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea last week, North Korea’s provocations will likely continue. South Korea, for its part, is also accelerating its military buildup, seeking more sophisticated ballistic missiles, including submarine-launched ballistic missiles and hypersonic cruise missiles, as well as missile defense systems. The country’s new president, Yoon Suk-yeol, has vowed to construct a powerful military.


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