North Korea launched a ballistic missile off its east coast on Wednesday, just days before a new South Korean President was scheduled to take office, South Korean officials said.
The missile took off from Sunan, near the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, at 12:03 p.m. and flew 292 miles before falling in the sea between North Korea and Japan, the South Korean military said. The missile reached an altitude of 485 miles. The military provided no further details on the type of missile launched.
North Korea has been unusually busy with weapons tests in recent months, conducting more than a dozen missile tests this year. The high frequency suggests that the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, is seeking to advance his missile and nuclear capabilities as well as to gain diplomatic leverage.
Talks with Washington have been stalled for years and the incoming government of South Korea’s President-elect, Yoon Suk-yeol, is expected to take a more hawkish stance on relations with the North.
During the campaign, Mr. Yoon called for a more vigorous enforcement of sanctions against North Korea. He is expected to meet with President Biden in Seoul on May 21 to discuss how to cope with Mr. Kim’s growing military threat.
The new launch drew condemnation from governments in the United States, South Korea, and Japan, which fear the North is preparing to conduct a major weapons test in coming months.
With denuclearization talks stalled, North Korea conducted a record number of missile launches in January, and after a pause for most of February, resumed tests with a launch on February 27. It appears to be preparing to launch a spy satellite in the near future, and has suggested it could resume testing of nuclear weapons or its longest range intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) for the first time since 2017.
“The significant pace at which North Korea is developing its missile-launching technology is not something our country and the surrounding regions can overlook,” Japan’s Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said after the latest launch.
In South Korea, the National Security Council (NSC) condemned North Korea’s “unprecedented repeated firing of ballistic missiles” as going against peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.
South Korea will “even more closely monitor North Korea’s nuclear and missile-related facilities” including its main nuclear reactor facility at Yongbyon and the Punggye-ri nuclear weapons test side, the NSC said, according to a statement from the presidential Blue House. It was not immediately clear what prompted the increased monitoring of the nuclear sites.
The US State Department condemned the latest launch as a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions, which have imposed sanctions on North Korea over its weapons programs.
The launch demonstrates the threat that North Korea’s illicit weapons of mass destruction and missile programs pose to its neighbors and the region as a whole, a State Department spokesperson said.
The United States has said it is open to talks without preconditions, but Pyongyang says talks are only possible after Washington and its allies drop hostile policies. Agencies; Photo © A TV at Seoul’s main railroad station on Wednesday broadcasts file footage of a North Korean missile launch © Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images