Seoul, South Korea – North Korea fired two ballistic missiles off its east coast on Wednesday afternoon, two days after it claimed to have tested a newly developed missile in resuming its weapons performance after a six-month hiatus.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missiles were launched from central North Korea on Wednesday afternoon. Japan’s Coast Guard says they landed outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone between Japan and the Korean peninsula. Seoul said South Korean and US intelligence officials are analyzing more details about the North Korean launch.
The joint chiefs’ statement said South Korean and US intelligence officials are analyzing more details about the North Korean launch, adding that South Korea has increased its anti-North Korean surveillance posture.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the missiles landed in waters outside the Japanese Exclusive Economic Zone between northwestern Japan and the Korean Peninsula.
“The firing threatens the peace and security of Japan and the region and is completely outrageous,” Suga said. “The Japanese government is determined to further increase our vigilance and surveillance to be prepared for any contingency,” he said.
Japan’s coast guard said no ships or aircraft were reported damaged by North Korean launches.
North Korea said on Monday that it tested a newly developed cruise missile twice over the weekend. North Korea’s state media described the missiles as a “strategic weapon of great importance”, implying that they were developed with the intention of arming them with a nuclear warhead. According to North Korean accounts, the missile traveled a range of about 1,500 kilometers (930 mi), which was within reach of Japanese and US military installations.
Many experts say the weekend’s tests suggested North Korea is pushing to strengthen its weapons arsenal amid a standoff in nuclear diplomacy between Pyongyang and Washington.
Wednesday’s launch came as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was in Seoul with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and other senior officials to discuss stalled nuclear diplomacy with the North.
It is unusual for North Korea to launch provocateurs when China, its last major ally and largest aid provider, is involved in a major diplomatic event.
Moon’s office said Moon told Wang that he appreciated China’s role in the international diplomatic effort to resolve North Korea’s nuclear standoff and asked for Beijing’s continued support for such efforts. Wang called for further development in bilateral relations between Beijing and Seoul, but it was not known whether Wang had specifically addressed the issue of North Korea.
Moon’s office said the government plans to hold an unscheduled meeting of the National Security Council on Wednesday.
Nuclear diplomacy between the United States and North Korea has stalled since 2019, when Americans rejected the North’s demand for major sanctions relief in exchange for dismantling an old nuclear facility. Kim’s government has so far threatened to build high-tech weapons targeting the United States and has rejected the Biden administration’s proposals for talks, demanding that Washington first drop its “hostile” policies.
The prospect of resuming the North’s testing activity after Kim failed to leverage his arsenal for economic gains during Donald Trump’s presidency is an attempt to pressure the Biden administration over the diplomatic freeze.
North Korea ended a year-long hiatus in ballistic tests by firing two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea in March, a tradition of testing the new US administration with weapons displays aimed at measuring Washington’s response and wresting concessions. continued to.
North Korea still maintains a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests, a sign that it does not want to stop nuclear talks with the United States altogether.
Associated Press writer Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.