The South Korean presidential office said it carried out its first test of an underwater ballistic missile on Wednesday afternoon. He said a nationally-built missile fired from a submarine traveled a predetermined distance before hitting a designated target. The statement said the weapon is expected to help South Korea deter potential external threats, strengthen its self-defense position and promote peace on the Korean Peninsula.
The test follows two hits from North Korean short-range ballistic missiles detected by the South Korean military earlier on Wednesday. On Monday, North Korea said it fired a newly developed cruise missile in its first weapons test in six months.
Experts say the North Korean launches have shown it is continuing its weapons-boosting plans while trying to pressure the United States to resume stalled nuclear talks.
It is unusual for South Korea to publicly disclose high-profile weapon tests that some experts say could unnecessarily provoke North Korea. Observers say the government of Moon Jae-in, which is actively pursuing reconciliation with North Korea, could respond to criticism that it is being too lenient on the North.
The South Korean military said the North Korean missiles, launched on Wednesday from central North Korea, traveled about 800 kilometers in an apogee of 60 kilometers before landing in the waters between the Korean Peninsula and the Japan.
The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said the launches, while underscoring the destabilizing impact of North Korea’s illicit weapons program, did not pose an immediate threat to “U.S. personnel or territory, or for our allies ”.
“The gunfire threatens the peace and security of Japan and the region and is absolutely scandalous,” Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said. “The Government of Japan is determined to further step up its vigilance and surveillance to prepare for any eventuality. “
The Japanese Coast Guard said no ships or planes had reported damage from the missiles.
Violation of Security Council resolutions
Wednesday’s launches were in violation of UN Security Council resolutions banning North Korea from engaging in ballistic missile activity. But the UN Council generally does not impose new sanctions on North Korea when it launches short-range missiles, like those fired on Wednesday.
On Monday, North Korea said it tested a newly developed cruise missile twice over the weekend. North Korean state media described the missile as a “strategic weapon of great importance”, implying that it was developed with the intention of carrying nuclear warheads. According to North Korean accounts, the missile has demonstrated its ability to strike targets 1,500 kilometers away, a distance that puts all Japanese and US military installations within easy reach.
In a statement, the sister of the North Korean leader, Kim Yo-jong, criticized Moon’s description of the North Korean missile tests as a provocation and warned of a “complete destruction” of relations if Moon continues with it. what she described as a slander against North Korea. .
Chinese Foreign Minister in Seoul
The North Korean missile tests took place while Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was in Seoul for meetings with Moon and other senior officials to discuss stalled nuclear negotiations with the North.
It is unusual for North Korea to make provocative launches when China, its last great ally and biggest aid provider, is engaged in a major diplomatic event.
Moon’s office said Moon told Wang he appreciated China’s role in international diplomatic efforts to resolve the North Korean nuclear standoff and asked for Beijing’s continued support. Wang said Beijing will continue to support the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the improvement of relations between the Koreas.
Talks between the United States and North Korea have stalled since 2019, when the Americans rejected the North’s demand for major sanctions relief in exchange for dismantling an aging nuclear facility. Kim Jong-un’s government has so far threatened to manufacture high-tech weapons targeting the United States and has rejected overtures from Joe Biden’s administration for dialogue, demanding that Washington first abandon its policies ” hostile ”.
North Korea ended a year-long hiatus in ballistic testing in March by firing two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea, continuing the tradition of testing new U.S. administrations with weapons demonstrations aimed at measuring Washington’s response and wresting concessions.
North Korea still maintains a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile testing, a sign that it may not want to completely scuttle nuclear negotiations with the United States.