What will the world look like in 23? Not Just Ukraine! A Brief Review of “International Conflicts” in 22 | FRIDAY DIGITAL

What will the world look like in 23? Not Just Ukraine! A Brief Review of “International Conflicts” in 22

Military Journalist Buntaro Kuroi Reports

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The year 2022 was another year of “war”. Wars are still being fought today, not only in Russia and Ukraine, but around the world. What do people fight for? Looking back at the international conflicts of 2022 and our missteps Photo: AP/Afro

The Heavy Yoke of “International Conflict,” Not Just in Ukraine

The year 2022 was a year of war. Needless to say, this is because Russian troops invaded Ukraine in February.

Ukraine, which received strong arms and intelligence support from NATO and other countries, maintained high morale, effectively intercepted the invasion, and succeeded in halting the advance of the Russian forces. Now, 10 months after the war began, it is a prolonged war of attrition on the eastern and southern fronts.

I would like to review the major events in the international security arena in 2022, including “conflicts” other than that Russian-Ukrainian war.

Russian Barbarism and North Korea’s Growing Presence


▪ Suppression of demonstrations in Kazakhstan

On January 1, anti-government protests erupted in the wake of soaring fuel prices. They clashed with security forces. On January 11, President Tokayev declared an end to the unrest. The death toll from the unrest reached more than two hundred.

▪ Russian troops deployed on the Ukrainian border continue to build up.

In the spring of 2021, Russian troops deployed on the Ukrainian border withdrew some of their forces, but they began to build up again around October of the same year, and in December Russia declared that it would take military countermeasures if NATO did not commit to non-expansion, leading to heightened tensions.

When NATO formally rejected Russia’s request on January 26, the deployment of Russian troops went further. Eventually, Russian troops were deployed to encircle Ukraine, including inside Belarusian territory, bringing the total number of Russian troops to about 190,000.

▪ North Korea successfully tested a “missile that cannot be dropped by Aegis” within range of Japan.

On January 5 and 11, North Korea conducted launch tests of “hypersonic missiles” that glide at altitudes lower than the corresponding altitudes of Japan-U.S. Aegis ships. On the 11th, the missile flew 1,000 km. This put Japan, for the first time, within range of a missile that could not be dropped by the existing Aegis ships.

Furthermore, on the 14th of the same month, Japan launched the “KN-23” short-range ballistic missile railroad launch ceremony.

On January 19, Kim Jong-Un effectively declared at a meeting of the party’s Politburo that he would resume nuclear testing and ICBM launch tests, which he had vowed to refrain from during negotiations with the United States in 2018. Kim Jong-Un’s words mean that a concrete plan to do so exists. In fact, on the 30th of the same month, he fired an intermediate-range ballistic missile, the Mars-12, showing signs of gradually proceeding to launch longer-range missiles.


▪ Russian Forces Invade Ukraine

On February 15, the Russian lower house of parliament adopted a resolution requesting Putin to recognize the independence of Donetsk and Luhanshik oblasts. In response, on February 21, Putin approved the independence and ordered the military to conduct security operations in the region under the pretext of a request from the independent states. Three days later, on February 24, Putin ordered a “special military operation” and the invasion of Ukraine began.

At the start of the war, Russian troops attacked various regions with missiles. At the same time, ground troops invaded from three directions in the north, east, and south. In the north, they moved south from Belarus. In parallel, they launched a missile attack on the capital city of Kyiv. In addition, paratroopers were deployed to take control of Khostomeli Airport on the outskirts of the capital, but Ukrainian forces repelled the attack.

▪ North Korea conducted a preliminary launch test of a very large ICBM, the Mars 17.

North Korea launched the ICBM “Mars 17” several times in February and March, but these were preliminary experimental launches, not full-power launches.

On the other hand, at the end of the same month, the week after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, it accelerated construction of nuclear test preparations at its Punggye-ri nuclear test site. Russia’s hostility toward major Western nations meant that North Korea now had a chance to conduct a nuclear test without worrying about pressure from the international community.


▪ Ukrainian forces successfully defend Kyiv.

Russian troops invaded the southern part of Ukraine from the Crimean Peninsula one after another, expanding their control of the region, and on March 2, the city of Kherson was occupied.

On the other hand, troops invading from the north approached Kyiv from the northwest and its suburbs, but were stopped there. A force invading from the Russian border in the northeast and targeting Kyiv from the east also advanced to the outskirts and was repulsed.

Troops that invaded the Donbass region from the east gradually pushed the Ukrainian army out, especially in Luhansk Oblast, where they controlled a considerable area, but strong resistance in Donetsk Oblast prevented them from advancing.

Thus, in the first phase of the war from February 24 to mid-March, the Ukrainian army barely stopped the advance of the Russian troops in various areas.

▪ North Korea failed to launch its super-sized ICBM, the Mars 17.

On March 16, an attempt to launch the Mars 17 failed. On March 24, North Korea successfully launched a lighter version of the Mars 15 warhead, which had already been successfully launched, at an acceleration equivalent to that of the Mars 17, and falsely announced that it had successfully launched the Mars 17.


▪ Russian forces move troops from the north to the east.

The Russian military, unable to suppress the Ukrainian counterattack on the northern front, gave up the Kyiv offensive and withdrew its troops completely from the northern front by April 6. The withdrawn troops were mainly sent to the Eastern Front.

▪ North Korea Launches New Small Short-Range Ballistic Missile

On April 16, North Korea launched for the first time a small missile, which it called a “new tactical guided weapon. North Korea explained that the missile was intended to carry a nuclear weapon. North Korea indicated that it is developing nuclear bombs based on the assumption that they will be miniaturized to at least the level that would allow them to be loaded on these missiles.


Russian forces take control of the key city of Mariupol.

On May 17, the Russian military, which had redeployed its forces from the northern front to the east, used its superior firepower to strengthen its offensive, especially in the east, and seized Mariupol, a strategic point in the corridor between North Korea and the south.

North Korea is ready for a nuclear test

Construction of a nuclear test site, which had been hurried since the end of February, was completed in May. It is believed that North Korea is now ready to conduct a nuclear test at any time. North Korea also continued to launch missiles, launching several existing ballistic missiles between May and June.


Russian forces advance in the eastern part of the country.

Russian forces with superior firepower advance on the eastern front, seizing control of Severodonetsk, the central city of Luhanshik Oblast, on June 24.


Russian forces take control of Luhanshik Oblast.

On July 3, Russian troops captured the key city of Lysychansk and took control of almost all of Luhanshik Oblast.

However, from around the end of the same month, the Ukrainian army began deploying HIMARS (High Mobility Rocket Artillery Systems) provided by NATO to the front lines, effectively destroying ammunition depots and other facilities behind the Russian army. The Russian army had been unable to defend its supply lines due to a lack of troops, and the Ukrainian army effectively attacked these supply lines, causing the Russian army to halt its advance in many areas.

The Ukrainian counterattack began.


▪ Ukrainian forces counterattacked in the southern part of the country.

Toward the end of August, Ukrainian forces launched an offensive in the Herson Oblast. Russian troops deployed elite units from the Eastern Front to the Southern Front.


Ukrainian forces recapture Halkhiu Oblast.

▪ Russia begins to mobilize reserves.

In early September, the Ukrainian army launched an offensive on the northeastern front in the Halkhiu Oblast, where Russian forces were stretched thin, and succeeded in encircling Russian forces there and cutting off their supply routes. In a short time, they succeeded in recapturing almost the entire Halkhiu Oblast. With this, the Ukrainian army suddenly gained the upper hand, and the Russians were forced to defend themselves.

The Russian army was short of troops due to the large number of casualties since the beginning of the war, and on September 21 it decided to mobilize 300,000 reservists. Also on the same day, Russia declared the unilateral annexation of four eastern and southern provinces on September 30.

The world is watching the intensifying anti-government protests in Iran…

▪ Anti-government protests intensify in Iran

On September 13, a 22-year-old woman, whose hair was not covered by a hijab (headscarf), was detained by the Interior Ministry’s “morality police” in the Iranian capital Tehran and died in custody. This news triggered protests that spread to various parts of the country and became an anti-government movement demanding freedom. Police and security forces, as well as the Basij, a militia of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, responded violently to these demonstrations. Live ammunition was used to suppress the demonstrations in various locations, resulting in many casualties. Nevertheless, the anti-government movement continued to persevere.


▪ Russian forces launch missile attacks on civilian facilities throughout Ukraine.

Fighting continues with firepower, mainly artillery. Especially in the southern front in the Cherson Oblast, Ukrainian troops destroyed a bridge over the Dnipro River with artillery fire, advancing the battle to the upper hand.

On October 8, the Crimean bridge in the Kerch Strait was blown up, probably by Ukrainian military sabotage, and one lane was heavily damaged.

The Russians, on the other hand, were on the defensive in the ground battle, so they continued to attack Ukrainian cities with cruise missiles and drones, especially destroying power plants and other infrastructure facilities.

North Korean Missiles Fly Over Japan

North Korea carried out a series of multiple missile launches in late September and October. Most of the launches were practical drills of existing missiles, but there was also a short-range, reservoir-launched KN-23 ballistic missile (launched on September 25), etc. The improved Mars-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile launched on October 4 flew over the Japanese islands for the first time in five years.

China’s Dictatorship Strengthened

▪ Chinese Communist Party Congress strengthens Xi Jinping’s dictatorship and takes a more hard-line approach to foreign affairs.

In mid-October, the Communist Party of China (CPC) congress was held in China, and Xi Jinping began his third term, breaking with the conventional rule of two terms of 10 years as general secretary. In his pledge to unify Taiwan, Xi Jinping took a hard-line stance, stating that he would not renounce the use of military force.


▪ Ukraine recaptures the southern city of Herson.

Russian troops began withdrawing from the Herson Oblast, and on November 9, they officially announced their withdrawal from the city of Herson. It is safe to say that the trend is in favor of Ukraine.

▪ North Korea launches super-sized ICBM “Mars 17

On November 3, North Korea failed to launch its ICBM “Mars 15 Improved. This was followed by the successful launch of the Mars 17 on November 18. This was the first successful launch of the Mars 17. It is assumed that this missile has a range over the entire U.S. and is intended to have multiple warheads.

Demonstrations Criticizing the Government Expand in China

On November 24, a fire in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, spread after information spread that a strict lockdown prevented fire engines from approaching the area, prompting widespread demonstrations across China against the government’s long-term zero-corona policy of forcibly taking away freedom. The demonstrations quickly turned into demonstrations critical of the government and, surprisingly, a number of criticisms of Xi Jinping. Public security authorities are using force to keep them in check, but discontent will continue to fester.


▪ Missile and drone attacks on various Ukrainian locations continue.

Russian forces continued to attack Ukrainian cities with cruise missiles and drones. On the ground, offensive and defensive fighting continues, especially in Bakhmut, Donetsk Oblast. The Russian private military company “Wagner” has been deployed to the front line of the war.

North Korea conducted a combustion test of a new solid-fuel ICBM engine.

On December 15, North Korea conducted a combustion test of a high-power solid-fuel rocket engine for the development of a new type of weapon. There is a strong possibility that North Korea will develop a new type of solid-fuel ICBM in the near future.

Also on the 18th, an experimental military reconnaissance satellite was launched using a semi-medium-range ballistic missile rocket. North Korea has publicly stated in its five-year national defense plan announced in January 2021 that it will develop a reconnaissance satellite, and it is expected to proceed with this development.

Also on the 26th, a North Korean drone entered South Korean airspace. Incidentally, North Korea has stated that it will develop both the unmanned aircraft and the aforementioned solid-fuel ICBM, as well as the multi-warhead ICBM mentioned above, under a five-year plan.

Chinese Military Conducts Large-Scale Military Exercise Around Taiwan

From December 25 to 26, the Chinese military deployed seven naval vessels and 71 military aircraft to conduct large-scale military exercises around Taiwan. China claims that the exercises were a response to provocations by the U.S. and Taiwan.

Friction between Russia and Armenia

In Nagorno-Karabakh, where Armenia and Azerbaijan are fighting, the Azerbaijani side has blocked the corridor to the Armenian side since early December. Russian troops stationed there as peacekeepers have tacitly approved of the ceasefire violations by the Azerbaijani side. Russia was originally Armenia’s backer, but the Armenian side is increasingly complaining that it is not fulfilling its role.

What Will Happen to the World in 2023?

As described above, the year 2022 has anyway revolved around a major event: the Russian military invasion of Ukraine.

Roughly speaking, Russian troops invaded in late February and greatly expanded their control areas in the east and south, but the Ukrainian army managed to defend the capital Kyiv, and in early April, Russian troops completely withdrew from the north. The Russian army then withdrew completely from the north in early April, and the withdrawn troops were allocated to the eastern front, and from June to July, Luhanshik Oblast was overrun; fighting on the southern front intensified from the end of August, but in September the Ukrainian army recaptured Kharkiv Oblast in a blitzkrieg raid. After that, the war situation remained in Ukraine’s favor.

In the shadow of the war in Ukraine, North Korea continued to launch missiles throughout the year and developed a glide missile (which cannot be shot down by Aegis ships) that has a range of Japan. It also successfully launched a super-sized ICBM, the Mars 17, which is believed to be aimed at multiple warheads. It also conducted a combustion test of a rocket engine for a new type of solid-fuel ICBM. Although it has not yet conducted a nuclear test, it is believed that it is already ready to do so at any time.

China continues to pursue its military buildup, but Xi Jinping’s Communist Party congress in October strengthened his dictatorship and further ensured a hard line toward the outside world.

In addition, China and Iran have seen massive anti-government protests against their powerful governments.

Against this backdrop, the year 2023 has begun. In the world, we see only signs of a world increasingly moving away from peace.

  • Reporting and writing by Fumitaro Kuroi Photo AP/Afro

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