Seoul, South Korea – South Korea says it has conducted its first underwater missile test, hours after rival North Korea fired two ballistic missiles into the sea.
President Moon Jae-in’s office said in a statement that Moon observed a test of a domestically built submarine-launched ballistic missile on Wednesday afternoon.
It said the missile fired from the 3,000-ton class submarine flew over a predetermined distance before hitting the intended target.
The announcement followed the detection of two North Korean ballistic missile launches by South Korea on Wednesday.
This is a breaking news update. AP’s earlier story is below:
North Korea fired two ballistic missiles toward the sea in defiance of UN resolutions, the second weapons test in as many days that experts say is moving forward with its weapons manufacturing plans, while nuclear diplomacy with the United States is halted.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missiles launched from central North Korea flew about 800 kilometers (497 mi) over a 60-kilometre (37 mi) apogee before landing in waters between the Korean peninsula and Japan. The military said South Korean and US intelligence officials were analyzing more information about the launches.
The US Indo-Pacific Command said the launch, highlighting the destabilizing impact of North Korea’s illegal weapons program, “was not an immediate threat to the US individual or region, or to our allies.”
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said “the firing threatens the peace and security of Japan and the region and is completely outrageous.” “The Government of Japan is determined to further increase our vigilance and surveillance to be prepared for any contingency.”
Japan’s coast guard said no ships or aircraft had reported damage from the missiles.
The launches were in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions barring North Korea from engaging in any ballistic missile activities. But the UN Council does not usually impose new sanctions on North Korea when it launches short-range missiles, such as the one fired on Wednesday.
The latest launch came two days after North Korea said it tested a newly developed cruise missile twice over the weekend. North Korea’s state media described the missile as a “strategic weapon of great importance”, implying that it was developed with the intention of carrying a nuclear warhead. According to North Korean accounts, the missile demonstrated the ability to hit targets 1,500 kilometers (930 mi) away, all within reach of Japanese and US military installations.
Many experts say recent tests suggest North Korea is pushing to strengthen its weapons arsenal, putting pressure on President Joe Biden’s administration amid a standoff in nuclear diplomacy between Pyongyang and Washington.
“North Korea is implementing a program of missile development that was planned before Biden came into office. That program can be adjusted for political reasons but is primarily driven by security strategy and technical factors.” ,” said Leif-Eric Easley, professor of international studies at Ewa University in Seoul.
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 talks 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 told Wang that he appreciated China’s role in the international diplomatic effort to resolve North Korea’s nuclear standoff and called for Beijing’s continued support, Moon’s office said. Wang said Beijing will continue to support the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and better relations between Korea.
Moon’s office said the government plans to hold an unscheduled meeting of the National Security Council on Wednesday.
Talks between the United States and North Korea have 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.
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.