North Korea: why is Kim Jong-un raising the tension?

  • Jean Mackenzie
  • BBC correspondent in South Korea

Kim Jong-un during a recent missile launch

Credit, KCNA

photo captions,

Last month, North Korea tested several ballistic missiles.

Periods of tension with North Korea come and go, but the situation on the Korean peninsula now appears to be the most volatile in five years – and is likely to get worse.

Last month, the country fired a missile over Japan, forcing people in some areas to seek refuge in what was seen as hostile and provocative. The North Korean government also launched several other ballistic missiles, fired warplanes near the South Korean border and fired hundreds of artillery shells into the sea, which landed in a mixed military zone created by the two nations in 2018 to secure peace (the two countries are technically still at war).

On Monday (10/24), a North Korean merchant ship crossed the maritime border of the two countries, prompting warning shots from both sides. South Korea claims the incursion was intentional.

But what is Kim Jong-un doing? There are three reasons why North Korea wants to test and launch missiles. First, to assess and improve military technology. Second, to send a political message to the world (mainly to the United States). And third, to impress the local population in order to build loyalty to the regime.

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