North Korea fired a suspected ballistic missile toward its eastern sea on Saturday, the South Korean and Japanese militaries said, on its second launch this week, apparently continuing a series of provocations in weapons displays that could culminate in a nuclear test in the weeks or months to come. .
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff did not immediately say what type of weapon the North had fired or how far it had flown. Japan’s Defense Ministry said the launch may have been ballistic, but did not immediately provide flight details.
The launch came three days after South Korean and Japanese militaries on Wednesday detected the North firing a suspected ballistic missile near its capital, Pyongyang, and three days before the inauguration of South Korean President-elect Yoon Suk- yeol, who has vowed to take a tougher approach to the North’s nuclear ambitions.
The latest launch was likely North Korea’s 15th round of missile launches this year, including its first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile since 2017 that demonstrated potential range to reach the entire continental United States.
Experts say the unusually fast pace of testing activity underscores a desire to force the United States to accept the idea that the North is a nuclear power and remove crippling sanctions. There are also signs that North Korea is restoring tunnels at a nuclear testing ground, where it carried out its sixth and final nuclear test in September 2017, as part of possible preparations for another. explosive test.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un punctuated his missile tests with statements warning that the North could proactively use its nuclear weapons if threatened or provoked, which experts say portends a nuclear doctrine in escalation that would create greater concerns for South Korea and Japan.
The South Korean and Japanese militaries said the North Korean missile fired on Wednesday traveled about 500 kilometers at a maximum altitude of 800 kilometers. North Korean state media has yet to comment on the test.