North Korea has continued its recent weapons testing spree as it fired what appeared to be a submarine-launched ballistic missile. South Korean military said that Pyongyang fired the projectile towards the sea off its eastern coast while Japan claimed that North Korea fired two missiles.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said that one ballistic missile was launched at about 06:17 am Pakistan Standard Time (10:17 am local time) on Tuesday from the vicinity of Sinpo.
South Korean media reported that in a text message to reporters, the JCS said, “The intelligence authorities of South Korea and the United States are currently conducting a thorough analysis regarding additional details on the missile.”
Following the launch, South Korea’s National Security Council held a 70-minute meeting and expressed its “deep regret” at the test.
Meanwhile, Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said that two ballistic missiles had been detected. Kishida described the North’s recent series of missile tests as “regrettable”. The Japanese Premier cut short his first day of campaigning for Japan’s general election as he returned to Tokyo to discuss the launch.
Elsewhere, the US military also condemned North Korea for the launch and called on the country to “refrain from any further destabilising acts”.
In a statement, the US Indo-Pacific Command said, “We are aware of the North Korean ballistic missile launch this morning into the Sea of Japan and are consulting closely with the Republic of Korea (ROK) and Japan.”
The statement added that “this event does not pose an immediate threat to US personnel, territory, or that of our allies.”
North 8th weapon test in 2021
North Korea’s military boasts a submarine base as well as equipment for test-firing submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) in the area and has previously launched other types of missiles from there.
This was North Korea’s eighth projectile launch this year. Pyongyang’s last SLBM test took place in 2019. Under United Nations’ sanctions, the country is banned from carrying out ballistic missile tests.
Officials from the United States and South Korea have been trying to encourage North Korea back to stalled negotiations on its banned weapons and nuclear programmes.
Earlier on Monday, the US special representative on North Korea Sung Kim held talks with his South Korean counterpart in Washington. In a statement following the talks, Sung said, “We will seek diplomacy with the DPRK to make tangible progress that increases the security of the United States and our allies.”
Meanwhile, South Korean media reported that the intelligence chiefs from the US, South Korea, and Japan are due to meet in Seoul today to discuss the situation in North Korea.
Carrot and stick diplomacy
Negotiations on disarming North Korea’s banned nuclear program have been stalled since February 2019. The Vietnam Summit between then-US President Donald Trump and the North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un collapsed without any consensus. A later meeting between the two leaders at the demilitarised zone between the two Koreas also failed to make any headway.
Since then, Pyongyang has stepped up its weapons testing showing off new developments in its missile technology and stepping up activity at its Yongbyon nuclear complex. North Korean leader Kim maintains that the weapons arsenal is necessary for his country’s “self-defence”.
Meanwhile, South Korea is not holding either. Seoul has been stepping up military modernisation and it tested its first SLBM last month. South Korea has also been developing new military equipment and upgrading its air force capabilities with American-made F-35 stealth fighters. Seoul is also planning its first space launch later this week.
Amidst the arms build-up and a flurry of tests, the two Koreas restored a communication hotline just over two months earlier this month after Pyongyang had suddenly stopped picking up Seoul’s calls. At the time, North Korea’s state-run KCNA news agency quoted Kim as saying that the move was an attempt to establish “lasting peace” on the peninsula.