North Korea launches suspected ballistic missile into sea

SEOUL – North Korea fired a suspected ballistic missile off its east coast on Wednesday, just hours before South Korean President Moon Jae-in broke ground for a railway line he hopes will eventually connect the divided Korean peninsula.

The first launch since October underscored North Korean ruler’s New Year’s pledge, Kim Jong Un, to strengthen the military to address an unstable international situation amid stalled talks with South Korea and the United States.

The suspected missile was launched around 8:10 a.m. (6:10 p.m. Tuesday East) from an inland location over the east coast and into the sea, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said.

A few hours later, Moon visited the South Korean east coast city of Goseong near the border to the north, where he broke ground for a new railway line on the Korean peninsula, which he called “a stepping stone for peace and regional equilibrium”.

In remarks at the ceremony, Moon acknowledged that the launch had raised concerns about tension and damage to inter-Korean relations and urged North Korea to make serious efforts to engage in dialogue.

“We should not give up hope of a dialogue in order to fundamentally overcome this situation,” he said. “If both Koreas work together and build trust, one day peace will be achieved.”

The apparent missile launch by the nuclear-armed north highlighted the challenges Moon faces in his quest for a diplomatic breakthrough before the end of his five-year term in May.

Rail reconnecting the two Koreas was a centerpiece of Kim and Moon’s meetings in 2018, but those efforts were unsuccessful as talks aimed at convincing North Korea to surrender its nuclear weapons in exchange for easing international sanctions. had stalled.

Kim’s New Year’s address made no mention of South Korea’s efforts to resume stalled negotiations or any US offers, although analysts suggested that this does not mean he has shut the door on diplomacy.

South Korea’s National Security Council convened an emergency meeting expressing concern that the launch “came at a time when internal and external stability is extremely important” and called on North Korea to return for talks.

The Japanese Defense Minister said the suspected ballistic missile had flown an estimated 500 km (310 miles).

“North Korea has fired rockets repeatedly since last year, which is very unfortunate,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters.

United Nations Security Council resolutions ban all ballistic missile and nuclear tests by North Korea and have imposed sanctions on the programs.

In state media summaries of a speech Kim gave before the New Year, the North Korean leader made no explicit mention of missiles or nuclear weapons, but said national defenses needed strengthening.

North Korean troops have been conducting winter exercises for several weeks, the South Korean military announced.

“Our military remains on standby to prepare for a possible additional launch while closely monitoring the situation in close cooperation with the United States,” a JCS statement said. The most recent North Korean missile tests have often resulted in double or multiple launches.

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, North Korea has become even more isolated, imposing border barriers that slow trade and stall all personal diplomatic obligations.

It has also maintained a self-imposed moratorium on testing its largest ICBMs (ICBMs) or nuclear weapons. The last tests with ICBMs or an atomic bomb took place in 2017, before Kim met with then US President Donald Trump.

But Pyongyang continued to test a host of new short-range ballistic missiles, including one launched from a submarine in October, arguing that it should not be penalized for developing weapons that other countries also use.

“While the results of North Korea’s recent plenary sessions may have prioritized rural development for the coming year, that does not mean the country will cease ballistic missile testing,” said Michelle Kae, assistant director of 38 North, a North Korean surveillance program at Stimson, Washington Center.

Download the. down NBC news app for breaking news and politics

In one Report last month, the US government’s Congressional Research Service concluded that North Korea is pushing ahead with its nuclear weapons and missile programs despite UN Security Council sanctions and diplomatic efforts.

“Recent ballistic missile testing and military parades suggest that North Korea continues to build nuclear warfare aimed at evading regional ballistic missile defense,” the report said.

Just hours after the North Korean launch, Japan announced that its foreign and defense ministers would hold talks with their US counterparts on Friday to discuss security issues.

The White House, Pentagon, and State Department did not immediately respond to requests to launch on Wednesday.

At a regular press conference on Monday, State Department spokesman Ned Price reiterated the US desire to enter into dialogue with North Korea, saying Washington has no hostile intentions towards North Korea and is ready to meet without preconditions.

Leave a Comment