North Korea fires ballistic missile into waters off Japan

·2-min read
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks in this Oct 11 photo, provided by the North Korean government (AP)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks in this Oct 11 photo, provided by the North Korean government (AP)

North Korea has fired a ballistic missile into the sea in what South Korea’s military described as a weapon likely designed for submarine-based attacks.

It marks one of the most significant demonstrations of the North’s military might since US President Joe Biden took office.

The launch came on Tuesday, hours after the US reaffirmed its offer to resume diplomacy on North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme.

US military sees North Korea’s missile launch as destabilising, but not an immediate threat to the United States or its allies, the Indo-Pacific Command said.

“The United States condemns these actions and calls on North Korea to refrain from any further destabilising acts,” it said in a statement.

North Korea has been ramping up its weapons tests while making conditional peace offers to Seoul, reviving a pattern of pressuring South Korea to try to get what it wants from the US.

South Korea held a national security council meeting and expressed “deep regret” over the launch.

South Korean and US militaries closely analysed the launch after the South detected the North firing from waters near Sinpo port.

Military officials believe the missile was launched from a submarine at sea but it did not elaborate whether it was fired from beneath the water or a launch platform.

Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said his country’s initial analysis detected two ballistic missiles.

Japan’s coast guard issued a maritime safety advisory to ships but did not immediately know where the alleged missiles landed.

The shipyard in Sinpo is a major defense industry hub where North Korea focuses its submarine production.

In recent years, the North has also used Sinpo to develop ballistic weapons systems designed to be fired from submarines.

South Korean army soldiers in Paju, near the border with North Korea (AP)
South Korean army soldiers in Paju, near the border with North Korea (AP)

Analysts had expected the North to resume tests after it rolled out at least two new submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) during military parades in 2020 and 2021.

There have also been signs that the North is trying to build a larger submarine that would be capable of carrying and firing more than one missile at a time.

A strong South Korean response could anger North Korea, which has been accusing Seoul of hypocrisy for criticising the North’s weapons tests while expanding its own conventional military capabilities.

Japan’s Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihiko Isozaki said Tokyo has lodged a “strong protest” to North Korea through their embassies in Beijing.

Japan and North Korea have no diplomatic ties.

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