North Korea fires short-range missile to sea in latest test

28 September 2021, 05:54

People watch a TV showing a file image of North Korea’s missile launch during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station on Tuesday
South Korea Koreas Tensions. Picture: PA

The US, South Korea and Japan were quick to condemn the North over the firing.

North Korea has fired another short-range missile into the sea, according to neighbouring countries, in the latest weapon tests by Pyongyang that raises questions about the sincerity of its offer for talks with Seoul.

In an emergency National Security Council meeting, the South Korean government expressed regret over what it called “a short-range missile launch” by the North on Tuesday.

South Korea’s military earlier said the object fired from North Korea’s mountainous northern Jagang province flew toward the waters off the North’s eastern coast.

South Korea Koreas Tensions
People watch a TV showing a file image of North Korea’s missile launch during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in South Korea on Tuesday (Ahn Young-joon/AP)

The US Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement the launch did not pose an immediate threat to US personnel or territory, or to its allies.

But it said the missile launch “highlights the destabilising impact of (North Korea’s) illicit weapons programme” and that the US commitment to the defence of South Korea and Japan “remains ironclad”.

Details of the launch were being analysed by South Korean and US authorities. But Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said North Korea fired “what could be a ballistic missile” and that his government had stepped up its vigilance and surveillance.

A ballistic missile launch would violate a UN Security Council ban on North Korean ballistic activities, but the council typically does not impose new sanctions on North Korea for launches of short-range weapons.

Tests of ballistic and cruise missiles earlier this month were North Korea’s first such launches in six months and displayed its ability to attack targets in South Korea and Japan, both key US allies, where a total of 80,000 American troops are stationed.

But last Friday and Saturday, Kim Yo Jong, the influential sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, reached out to Seoul, saying her country was open to resuming talks and reconciliatory steps if conditions were met. Some experts said North Korea wants South Korea to work to win it relief from US-led sanctions.

South Korea has called Ms Kim’s statement “meaningful” but urged North Korea to restore communication channels before any talks between the rivals can be arranged.

The communication lines have remained largely dormant for about 15 months, so restoring them could be a yardstick to asses how serious the North is about its offer for conditional talks.

South Korea Koreas Tensions
People watch a TV showing a file image of North Korea’s missiles at the Seoul Railway Station on Tuesday (Ahn Young-joon/AP)

Seoul’s Unification Ministry said on Tuesday North Korea had been unresponsive to South Korea’s attempts to exchange messages over the channels.

As the North’s latest missile launch was detected by its rivals, North Korean Ambassador Kim Song used his speech on the last day of the UN General Assembly to justify his country’s development of a “war deterrent” to defend against US threats.

“The possible outbreak of a new war on the Korean Peninsula is contained not because of the US’s mercy on the DPRK, it is because our state is growing a reliable deterrent that can control the hostile forces in an attempted military invasion,” Mr Kim said.

The North’s latest outreach came as a response to South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s renewed calls for a declaration to end the 1950-53 Korean War in a bid to promote peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Seoul officials describe such a declaration as a “political” and “symbolic” step because a peace treaty is needed to be signed to formally end the Korean War, which ended with an armistice, leaving the peninsula in a technical state of war.

Koreas Tensions
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in addresses the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly (Eduardo Munoz/Pool Photo via AP)

After the North’s launch Tuesday, Mr Moon ordered officials to examine its latest weapons firing and previous outreach in a comprehensive manner before formulating counter-measures, according to Mr Moon’s office.

A US-led diplomatic effort aimed at convincing North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons in return for economic and political benefits has been stalled for more than two years.

US officials have repeatedly expressed hopes for further talks but have also made it clear the long-term sanctions imposed on North Korea will stay in place until the North takes concrete steps toward denuclearisation.

While North Korea has tested short-range weapons and vowed to continue building its nuclear arsenal, its leader Kim Jong Un has maintained a moratorium on testing longer-range weapons capable of reaching the American homeland, an indication he wants to keep the chances for future diplomacy with the US alive.

By Press Association

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