24 January 2024

North Korea appears to demolish ‘reunification arch’

24 January 2024

North Korea appears to have torn down a huge arch in its capital that symbolised reconciliation with South Korea, satellite images show.

The move comes a week after the North’s leader Kim Jong Un dismissed decades of hopes for peaceful reunification with the war-divided peninsula’s South.

South Korea’s military said on Wednesday that North Korea had also fired several cruise missiles into waters off its western coast.

Last week, Mr Kim described the Pyongyang monument as an “eyesore” and called for its removal while declaring that the North was abandoning long-standing goals of a peaceful unification with South Korea.

He ordered a rewriting of the North’s constitution to define the South as its most hostile foreign adversary.

Satellite images from Planet Labs PBC appeared to show the destruction of Pyongyang’s Monument to the Three Charters for National Reunification, also called the Arch of Reunification. An image on Tuesday clearly showed the arch missing along a roadway.

Clouds and snow cover made it difficult to ascertain when North Korea tore down the monument, but it appeared to have taken place within the last few days. NKNews, a website focused on North Korea, first reported on the satellite images.

The arch was a 100ft tall structure that looked over a major road leading to the city of Kaesong near the border with South Korea.

The cruise missile launches were North Korea’s second known launch event of the year, following a January 14 test-firing of the country’s first solid-fuel intermediate range ballistic missile, which reflected its efforts to advance its line-up of weapons targeting US military bases in Japan and Guam.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Wednesday that US and South Korean militaries were analysing the latest launches. It did not immediately confirm the exact number of missiles fired or their specific flight details.

“Our military has increased surveillance and vigilance and is closely coordinating with the United States while monitoring for further signs and activity from North Korea,” the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have increased in recent months as Mr Kim continues to accelerate his weapons development and issue provocative threats of nuclear conflict with the United States and its Asian allies.

The United States, South Korea and Japan have been expanding their combined military exercises in response to the North’s missiles tests. Mr Kim characterises these drills as rehearsals for an invasion.

North Korea said last week that it conducted a test of a purported nuclear-capable underwater attack drone in response to a combined naval exercise by the United States, South Korea and Japan, as it blamed its rivals for tensions in the region.

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