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N Korea at crossroads

Kim Jong Un's Achilles' heel lies in weak air defense

Frequent missile testing, drone flights reflect his fear of U.S. carriers

A TV at a train station in Seoul shows North Korean drones in December. (Yonhap via Kyodo)

TOKYO -- North Korea continued its provocative military actions late last year and during the New Year's holidays. It not only fired artillery shells and ballistic missiles but also tested a spy satellite and sent drones into South Korean airspace. The series of aggressive moves by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appear to reflect growing concern about the vulnerability of the country's air defense systems.

In 2022, North Korea launched at least 59 ballistic missiles in an estimated 31 rounds of test firings, according to Japan's Defense Ministry. The previous record was 25 missiles launched in 2019.

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