North Korea fires 2 alleged missiles at fourth launch this year



South Korean military says North Korea fired two suspected ballistic missiles at sea in its fourth weapons launch this month

SEUL, South Korea – North Korea launched two alleged ballistic missiles into the sea on Monday in its fourth weapons launch this month, the South Korean military said, with the apparent aim of demonstrating its power. military in the midst of paused diplomacy with the United States and the pandemic border. closures.

South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff said the North probably fired two short-range ballistic missiles from an area of ​​Sunan, the location of Pyongyang International Airport, but did not immediately say until what a point they flew.

The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said the missiles did not pose an immediate threat to U.S. personnel or territory, nor to its allies, but highlighted the destabilizing impact of the “illicit weapons program.” “North. Japan’s Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said the missiles had landed outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone, and Cabinet Secretary-General Hirokazu Matsuno condemned North Korea’s actions as threats to security. peace.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who is visiting the United Arab Emirates, has ordered officials to do “the utmost to ensure stability” on the Korean peninsula, his office said. He also said members of the presidential National Security Council stressed the need to reactivate nuclear diplomacy with Pyongyang.

North Korea had conducted a pair of flight tests of an alleged hypersonic missile on January 5 and January 11 and also tested ballistic missiles from a train on Friday in apparent retaliation for the new sanctions imposed by the Biden administration last week for its continuity. test releases.

North Korea has intensified tests in recent months of new missiles designed to overwhelm missile defenses in the region.

Some experts say North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is returning to a proven and true technique to pressure his neighbors and the U.S. with missile launches and outrageous threats before offering negotiations aimed at extracting concessions.

A U.S.-led diplomatic push to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program collapsed in 2019 after the Trump administration rejected demands by the North to ease major sanctions in exchange for a partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities.

Since then, Kim has pledged to further expand a nuclear arsenal that he clearly sees as his strongest guarantee of survival.

His government has so far rejected the Biden administration’s call for an unconditional resumption of dialogue, saying Washington must first abandon its “hostile policy”, a term Pyongyang uses primarily to describe military sanctions and exercises. combined US and South Korean.

Kim Dong-yub, a professor at Seoul University of North Korea, said the North could have made another launch to put pressure on Washington and could continue to increase its testing activity after promising stronger action on what he perceives as hostility from the United States.

Last week, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on five North Koreans for their role in obtaining equipment and technology for Northern missile programs in response to previous North tests this month. .

The State Department ordered sanctions against another North Korean, a Russian and a Russian company for their broader support for North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction activities, and the Biden administration also said that would pursue additional UN sanctions for continued testing by the North.

The announcement of sanctions came hours after North Korean state media reported that Kim Jong Un was monitoring a successful test of a hypersonic missile on Tuesday, which was the second test of the country’s system in a week. he claimed that the weapon would greatly increase the country’s “war deterrent”.

The North also fired two short-range ballistic missiles from a train on Friday in apparent retaliation against new U.S. sanctions linked to hypersonic testing. Friday’s test came hours after the Northern Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement in which the Biden administration rebuked the new sanctions and warned of a “stronger and safer reaction” if Washington maintains its confrontation position.


AP writer Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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