North Korea launches missile in 14th test so far this year


North Korea launched a ballistic missile towards its eastern waters on Wednesday, South Korean and Japanese officials said, days after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un pledged to build up its nuclear arsenal “at the pace as fast as possible” and threatened to use them against his rivals.

The launch, the North’s 14th weapons launch this year, also came six days before a new conservative South Korean president takes office for a single five-year term.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a statement that the missile was fired from the North Korean capital region and flew to waters off its east coast. He called North Korea’s repeated ballistic missile launches a “serious threat” that would undermine international peace and security and a violation of UN Security Council resolutions banning all ballistic launches by the North .

South Korean JCS Chairman Won In-choul held a video conference on the launch with General Paul LaCamera, an American general who heads the South Korea-US Combined Forces Command in Seoul, and they agreed maintain a strong common defense position.

Japan also detected the North Korean launch and quickly condemned it.

President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol is introduced on March 20 in Seoul. Yoon, who will be inaugurated early next week, condemned the North Korean action. (Jung Yeon-le/Getty Images)

“North Korea’s series of actions that threaten the peace, security and stability of the international community are unacceptable,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters during his visit to Rome.

Kishida said he would discuss the launch when he meets Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi later on Wednesday. “Naturally, we will exchange views on the regional situation in the Indo-Pacific and East Asia, and I will explain in detail the reality of the region, including the launch of North Korean missiles today. , to better understand the urgent situation in East Asia,” he said.

Makoto Oniki, Japan’s deputy defense minister, said the missile would have landed in waters outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone. No damage or injuries were reported by ships and aircraft in the area.

Unusually fast pace in weapon testing

It was not immediately clear which missile North Korea had launched. South Korea’s military said the missile traveled about 470 kilometers at an apogee of 780 kilometers, while Japan’s Oniki said it traveled about 500 kilometers at a peak altitude of 800 kilometers.

North Korea’s unusually fast pace of weapons testing this year underscores its dual goals of advancing its missile programs and pressuring Washington for an increasing freeze on nuclear talks, experts say.

US soldiers are shown at the US Army’s Camp Casey in Dongducheon, South Korea on Tuesday. Joint exercises with South Korean troops are a source of turmoil for the North Korean dictator. (Jung Yeon-je/AFP/Getty Images)

There are also signs that the North is preparing for a nuclear test at its remote northeast testing facility. If realized, North Korea’s atomic bomb blast would be the seventh of its kind and the first since 2017.

Last week, Kim Jong-un showcased his most powerful nuclear-capable missiles targeting both the United States and its allies in a massive military parade in the capital, Pyongyang. During a speech at the parade, Kim said he would build up his arsenal at “the fastest pace possible” and warned that the North would use its nuclear weapons preemptively if its national interests were threatened.

Kim’s strategy appears to be aimed at bolstering his arsenal of weapons and exerting more pressure on Washington and Seoul to accept his country as a nuclear state and ease extensive international sanctions against him, observers said.

Wednesday’s launch came ahead of the May 10 inauguration of South Korean President-elect Yoon Suk Yeol, who pledged to bolster Seoul’s missile capability and cement its military alliance with Washington to better deal with threats. North Korea’s growing nuclear power.

Yoon’s transitional power office called the latest North Korean launch a “serious provocation” and urged Pyongyang to end acts that raise tensions and threaten international peace. He said in a statement that the Yoon government will respond firmly to North Korean provocations in close cooperation with the international community.

North Korea has a history of stirring up animosities with weapons tests when Seoul and Washington inaugurate new governments with the apparent aim of bolstering its influence in future negotiations.

The actions of the US administration under Joe Biden on North Korea have so far been limited to largely symbolic sanctions and offers of open talks. North Korea has rejected the administration’s offer of talks, saying it must first abandon its ‘hostile policy’, in an apparent reference to US-led international sanctions and joint US military exercises. -South Koreans.

“Like the … recent tests of at least three intercontinental ballistic missiles, this launch is in flagrant violation of several United Nations Security Council resolutions,” a US State Department spokesman said on Wednesday.