South Korea, Japan say North Korea fired ballistic missile at sea

South Korean and Japanese forces said North Korea fired a ballistic missile into its eastern seas on Tuesday.

The military said it was the second weapon launch by North Korea in a week. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said North Korea may have fired a ballistic missile from an inland area and that South Korean and US forces were reviewing the launch. It is unknown how far the weapon flew.

Japan’s Prime Minister’s Office and the Defense Ministry also said the weapon could be a ballistic missile. However, the officials have not yet given further details.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said that while officials were checking the safety of planes and ships around Japan, there were no immediate reports of disruption or damage.

“It is extremely regrettable that North Korea continues to fire missiles,” Kishida said, shortly after the United Nations Security Council discussed its response to North Korea’s earlier launch last week.

North Korea fired a ballistic missile into the sea six days before the latest launch. The country later called it a successful test of a hypersonic missile, a type of weapon it claims to have tested as early as September. South Korea dubbed the projectile a ballistic missile. Hypersonic missiles are far more difficult to protect to detect and prevent,

The launches come after a series of tests in 2021 that pushed North Korea to expand its military capabilities amid a self-imposed pandemic lockdown and stalemate nuclear talks with the US.

People watch a TV showing a file image of North Korea’s missile launch during a news program at Seoul railway station in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, January 11, 2022. North Korea fired its missile as a ballistic missile on Tuesday. Eastern Seas, its second weapon launch in a week, the armies of South Korea and Japan said. “North Korea launched a hypersonic missile last time,” the Korean letters read.
Ah Young-joon/AP Photo

The Guam Office of Homeland Security and Civil Defense said they were monitoring reports of the launch, but there was no immediate threat assessment to Guam, a major US military center in the Pacific.

Kim Dong-yub, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said North Korea may have re-tested its alleged hypersonic missile in response to the South Korean military’s failure of last week’s test.

Seoul’s defense ministry said after the test that North Korea had exaggerated its capabilities and tested a conventional ballistic missile that South Korea was capable of intercepting. The ministry said it suspected North Korea had acquired the technology needed for a hypersonic weapon.

Hypersonic weapons, which fly at speeds greater than Mach 5 or more than five times the speed of sound, can pose a significant challenge to missile defense systems because of their speed and maneuverability. Such weapons were on the wish-list of sophisticated military assets that Kim unveiled early last year with multi-warhead missiles, spy satellites, solid-fuel long-range missiles and submarine-launched nuclear missiles .

Experts say North Korea is years away from achieving a reliable hypersonic system.

North Korea’s previous test on January 5 came days after Kim vowed during a key political conference to bolster its military forces, even as the nation grapples with difficulties related to the pandemic. , which has further strained its economy, crippled by US-led sanctions on its nuclear. Program.

The economic shock has left Kim with little to show for his diplomacy with former US President Donald Trump, which derailed after their second meeting in 2019 when the Americans criticized North Korea’s partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities. instead rejected demands for relief from major sanctions.

The Biden administration, whose policies have reflected a sweeping shift from countering terrorism in the US and so-called rogue states such as North Korea and Iran to a near-fellow adversary in China, has said it is looking forward to talks with North Korea. ready to start again. at any time” without preconditions.

But North Korea has so far rejected the idea of ​​open-ended talks, saying that the US should first withdraw its “hostile policy”, a term that the North has mainly used in sanctions and joint US-South Korea military. Uses to describe practice.

Professor Leif-Eric Easley of Iwa University in Seoul said, “Even with North Korea’s pandemic restricting trade and diplomacy, Pyongyang may be driving an arms race against Seoul and Washington to Russia and China.” is determined to refuse to focus on.”

North Korea’s advancing nuclear arsenal is at the core of Kim’s regime and which it clearly considers to be the strongest guarantee of its existence.

During his 10-year rule, he has conducted a large number of weapons tests to gain the ability to launch nuclear strikes on the US mainland.

But his country’s economy has faltered over the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, sanctions imposed on his nuclear ambitions, and his government’s own mismanagement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.