North Korea launches missile as diplomat denounces US policy
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – North Korea fired a short-range missile into the sea on Tuesday around the same time its UN diplomat was decrying US “hostile policies” against it , in an apparent return to his weapon mixing scheme. with openings of peace to wrest external concessions.
The launch, its third round of gunfire this month, came just three days after North Korea reiterated its offer of conditional talks with South Korea. Some experts say the latest missile launch was likely intended to test South Korea’s reaction, as North Korea needs Seoul to persuade Washington to relax economic sanctions and make other concessions.
At an emergency National Security Council meeting, the South Korean government expressed regret for what it called “a short-range missile launch” from the North. The South Korean military said earlier that the object fired from the mountainous Jagang province in northern North Korea had headed for the waters off the north east coast. Further details of the launch were being analyzed.
The US Indo-Pacific Command said the launch was not an immediate threat, but stressed “the destabilizing impact of (North Korea’s) illicit weapons program.” Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said North Korea had fired “what could be a ballistic missile” and his government had stepped up vigilance and surveillance.
A ballistic missile launch would violate a UN Security Council ban on North Korean ballistic activities, but the council generally does not impose new sanctions on North Korea for close-range weapon launches.
The launch came after Kim Yo Jong, the influential sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, contacted Seoul twice on Friday and Saturday, saying her country was open to resuming talks and reconciliation measures if the conditions were met. She criticized Seoul for calling Pyongyang’s previous missile tests provocative and called on Seoul to drop “unfair double playing standards” and “hostile policies”.
Its opening followed two previous rounds of missile launches from the North this month – the first with a newly developed cruise missile and the other with a ballistic missile fired from a train, a new launch pad. These launches demonstrated North Korea’s ability to attack targets in South Korea and Japan, two key US allies where a total of 80,000 US troops are stationed.
Tuesday’s launch “was like testing the South Korean government to see if it would impose a double standard and call it a provocation,” said analyst Shin Beomchul of the Seoul-based Korea Research Institute for National Strategy . He said North Korea’s status as a nuclear state would be enhanced if South Korea and others did not react strongly.
Kim Dong-yub, a professor at the Seoul University of North Korean Studies, said North Korea may have tested a new missile such as a hypersonic glide vehicle that was part of an array of weapons from high technology that Kim Jong Un is committed to procuring.
South Korea called Kim Yo Jong’s openness to the talks “meaningful,” but urged North Korea to restore communication channels before talks between the rivals can be organized.
The inter-Korean lines of communication remained largely dormant for about 15 months, so their restoration could be a criterion to assess the seriousness of the North in its offer. Seoul’s Unification Ministry said on Tuesday that North Korea remained unresponsive to South Korea’s attempts to exchange messages on the channels.
Almost simultaneously with Tuesday’s launch, North Korean Ambassador Kim Song used his speech on the last day of the annual high-level meeting of the United Nations General Assembly to justify his country’s development of a “War deterrent” to defend against American threats.
“The possible outbreak of a new war on the Korean Peninsula is not contained because of the United States’ leniency towards the DPRK, but because our state is developing a reliable deterrent that can control hostile forces during the war. ‘an attempted military invasion,’ Kim said. DPRK refers to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the official name for North Korea.
Kim Yo Jong’s offer of conditional talks was a response to renewed calls from South Korean President Moon Jae-in for a political declaration ending the 1950-1953 Korean War, which ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving the peninsula in a technical state of war.
The three-year conflict pitted South Korea and US-led UN forces against North Korea and China and killed 1-2 million people. In his own speech to the UN last week, Moon proposed that the declaration of end of war be signed between the two Koreas, the United States and China.
After the North launched on Tuesday, Moon ordered officials to examine its latest gunfire and previous campaigns comprehensively before formulating countermeasures, according to Moon’s office.
A US-led diplomatic effort to convince North Korea to give up nuclear weapons in return for economic and political benefits has stalled for the past 2.5 years. U.S. officials have repeatedly expressed hope for continued talks, but also made it clear that long-term sanctions imposed on North Korea will remain in place until the North takes concrete steps towards denuclearization. .
While North Korea tested short-range weapons and vowed to continue building its nuclear arsenal, Kim Jong Un maintained a moratorium on testing longer-range weapons capable of reaching the American homeland, an indication that he wants to keep the chances of a future diplomacy with the United States alive.
Associated Press editors Kim Tong-hyung in Seoul, Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations, and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.