As North Korea appears to be ramping up its missile testing programme once more, one military expert has spotted a particular pattern to the launches.
According to Joseph Dempsey, research associate for defense and military analysis at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, several of the missile tests have one thing in common: they're all targeting the same rock.
The rock in question is an uninhabited outcrop some 11 miles off the coast of North Korea, officially called 'Alsom,' but also referred to as 'No Man's Land.'
Bloomberg reports that as many as 25 missile tests have targeted Alsom in the last three years alone, with experts believing the sparse and small site has been chosen to demonstrate that North Korean missiles are capable of hitting specific targets.
Having kept track of these test for years now, Dempsey spotted the recurring pattern, leading him the dub Alsom Kim Jong-un's 'most hated rock.'
'This relatively small and well-defined target presents a good way to demonstrate the apparent increased accuracy of these systems, particularly for propaganda purposes,' he explained.
Alsom is also conveniently located, being far enough offshore that an error with the missile launches are unlikely to impact the mainland, but close enough to North Korea that there are rarely any international vessels in the area.
Look, the United States had Bikini Atoll, the Soviet Union had Kazakhstan, so who are we to judge Kim Jong-un for launching his missiles at his least favourite rock?
Well, according to some unconfirmed rumours, the rock might have taken on a rather more sinister purpose. Last month, South Korean newspaper Dong-A Ilbo reported that satellite images appear to show a 10-metre wide 'dome like' structure built on the rocky outcrop, which some experts claim may be intended to resemble a South Korean government building.
January saw North Korea carry out eight missile launches - the highest monthly total since Kim took power in 2012 - as analysts warn the country is likely ramping up its activity. The barrage of tests are believed to be in retaliation of sanctions introduced against the country by the United States and its allies, which were themselves implemented in an effort to curb North Korean missile launches and nuclear testing.
Responding to questions about North Korea's actions, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said last week, 'North Korea has been doing missile tests, dozens of them, in prior administrations... the door to diplomacy remains open and we have conveyed that clearly.'
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