Region of Concern: North Korea, South Korea, Japan, United States
Written By Iris Hautaniemi Forsberg; Edited by Cameron Munoz, Senior Editor
Date: June 16, 2023
North Korean Map
Event: On June 15, North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles that landed within Japan’s exclusive economic zone. According to North Korea, the missiles were a response to military drills conducted in the area by US and South Korean troops. A spokesperson for North Korea’s Ministry of National Defense said that the exercises are rapidly escalating the tensions in the region. During this time, US National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, was on a visit to Tokyo. North Korea has increased missile launching tests during recent years, with over 80 ballistic missiles launched in 2022 and 2023. North Korea has also strengthened its relations with other nations hostile to the US and its allies, with a statement from Kim Jong Un on June 12 describing “closer strategic cooperation” and “full support and solidarity” with Russia. At the same time, after years of tense relations between South Korea and Japan, both close allies to the US, the two countries have strengthened their relationship and agreed to intensified intelligence sharing and military cooperation.
Significance: North Korean missile launches will almost certainly continue to increase as the US and its allies become more unified against hostile nations, such as North Korea, Russia, and China. South Korea and Japan will likely engage in more cooperation and military drills to ensure they can successfully defend against North Korean missiles. The US will very likely invest more resources in the region and increase collaboration with all allied partners affected by the threat. There is a roughly even chance that public sentiments in South Korea and Japan for increased nuclear cooperation with the US will increase, given the rising fear of potential nuclear strikes from North Korea. The increased regional tensions will likely reduce the chances of disarmament talks between the US and North Korea. Russia and China will likely continue cooperating with North Korea, potentially creating an alliance against the US and its allies. With Russia and China as permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, increasing unanimous sanctions on North Korea will likely be difficult.
Recommendations: The US, South Korea, and Japan should increase cooperation and engage in multilateral discussions on deterring and defending from North Korean missiles. The affected regional countries should also increase technological cooperation to ensure all warning and automatic defense systems are updated and functional. The United Nations General Assembly and the European Union should strongly condemn these tests and continue to advocate for nuclear disarmament. South Korea and Japan should develop evacuation protocols for high-risk areas and provide information and exercises to their citizens about steps to take in case of incoming missile strikes. Citizens in the affected countries should search for the nearest bomb shelters and stock up on essential supplies, such as canned food, water, and medicines. The US and its allies should monitor the activity and increased cooperation between North Korea, Russia, and China, and work to mitigate weapons transfers between nations.
 North Korea fires two short-range missiles after warning of response to allied drills, Channel News Asia, June 2023, https://www.channelnewsasia.com/asia/north-korea-fires-ballistic-missile-east-sea-seoul-japan-3564336
 As Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Increases Missile Launches, Inaction Has Left Pyongyang Unconstrained, Senior Official Tells Security Council, United Nations. Meeting Coverages and Press Releases, April 2023, https://press.un.org/en/2023/sc15260.doc.htm
 North Korea's Kim vows to 'hold hands' with Putin for strategic cooperation, Channel News Asia, June 2023, https://www.channelnewsasia.com/world/north-koreas-kim-vows-hold-hands-putin-strategic-cooperation-3555231
 Japan and South Korea renew ties in first summit in 12 years, NPR, March 2023, https://www.npr.org/2023/03/15/1163633429/japan-south-korea-summit