North Korea Test Fires a Suspected Ballistic Missile in a Signal That It Isn’t Interested in Rejoining Talks

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea fired a suspected ballistic missile into the sea on Wednesday, the South Korean and Japanese militaries said, its first public weapons launch in about two months and a signal that Pyongyang isn’t interested in rejoining denuclearization talks anytime soon and would rather focus on boosting its weapons arsenal.

The latest launch came after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed to further boost his military capability — without disclosing any new policies toward the United States or South Korea— at a high-profile ruling party conference last week.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that North Korea fired a suspected ballistic missile toward its eastern waters on Wednesday morning. The statement said that intelligence officials from both the U.S. and South Korean governments were trying to gather more information on the launch.
[time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”]

Japan’s Defense Ministry confirmed that the North Korean missile launch was also detected by them.

“We find it truly regrettable that North Korea has continued to fire missiles from last year,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters.

Kishida said other details about the North Korean launch weren’t immediately available, including where the suspected missile landed and whether there had been any damage. According to him, he instructed officials to verify the safety of planes and ships in the vicinity where the missile was likely to have landed and fallen.

Wednesday’s launch was the first such firing since North Korea tested a series of newly developed weapons between September and November including nuclear-capable missiles that place South Korea and Japan, both key U.S. allies in the region, within striking distance. In the hope of obtaining relief from economic sanctions, some experts believe North Korea has been putting pressure on other nuclear-power states to agree.

The Biden administration has repeatedly said it is open to resuming nuclear diplomacy with North Korea “anywhere and at any time” without preconditions. However, the North has not responded to such offers and stated its hostility towards America remains unaffected.

STR/JIJI PRESS/AFP via Getty Images Fumio Kimio, Japan’s Prime Minister answered questions at his Tokyo office on January 5, 2022 after North Korea launched what looked like a ballistic missile.

Outgoing South Korean President Moon Jae-in said in his New Year’s address Tuesday that he would continue to seek ways to restore ties with North Korea and promote peace on the Korean Peninsula until his single five-year term ends in May. As a means to lessen animosities, he has been pushing for a symbolic and political declaration of end to the Korean War 1950-1953.

The U.S.-led diplomatic effort to convince North Korea to stop its nuclear program fell apart in 2019. This was due to disagreements over the amount of sanctions relief that should be granted to North Korea in exchange for its dismantling of its main nuclear facility, which is a small denuclearization stage. Kim has since threatened to enlarge his nuclear arsenal, though his country’s economy has suffered major setbacks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, persistent U.S.-led sanctions and his own mismanagement.

“Rather than expressing willingness for denuclearization talks or interest in an end-of-war declaration, North Korea is signaling that neither the omicron variant nor domestic food shortages will stop its aggressive missile development,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.

Kim Dongyub is a Professor at the University of North Korean Studies Seoul. He said North Korea may have tried a development hypersonic missile, or a KN-23 nuclear-capable missile. The missile has a high maneuverability and low trajectory flight. According to him, North Korea will likely continue with its military buildup.

During last week’s plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party, Kim repeated his vows to boost his country’s military capacity and ordered the production of more powerful, sophisticated weapons systems. State media reports on the meeting said North Korea set forth “tactical directions” for North Korea’s external relations including with South Korea, but didn’t elaborate. There was no mention made of the United States.

Kim celebrated 10 years of power last month. Since assuming control after his father and longtime ruler Kim Jong Il’s death in December 2011, Kim Jong Un has established absolute power at home and staged an unusually large number of weapons tests as part of efforts to build nuclear-tipped missiles capable of reaching the American mainland.

During Kim’s 10-year rule, North Korea has performed 62 rounds of ballistic missile tests, compared with nine rounds during his grandfather and state founder Kim Il Sung’s 46-year rule, and 22 rounds during Kim Jong Il’s 17-year rule, according to South Korean and U.S. figures. Four of the North’s six nuclear tests and its three intercontinental ballistic missile launches all occurred under Kim Jong Un’s rule.

This report was contributed by Yuri Kageyama, Tokyo Associated Press writer.


Related Articles

Back to top button