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North Korea fires ballistic missile; 14th test so far this year

North Korea’s heightened pace in weapons testing this year underscores its dual goal of advancing its missile programmes and applying pressure on Washington over a deepening freeze in nuclear negotiations.

North Korea has launched a ballistic missile toward its eastern waters on Wednesday, South Korean and Japanese officials said, days after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed to bolster his nuclear arsenal “at the fastest possible pace” and threatened to use them against rivals.

The launch, the North’s 14th round of weapons firing this year, also came six days before a new conservative South Korean president takes office for a single five-year term.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the missile was fired from the North’s capital region and flew to the waters off its eastern coast. It called North Korea’s repeated ballistic missile launches “an act of grave threat” to undermine international peace and security and a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions banning any ballistic launch by the North.

The JCS said the missile flew 470 kilometres at a top altitude of 780 km and speed of Mach 11.

The launch is the North’s 14th weapons test this year, and comes less than a week before South Korea’s newly elected President Yoon Suk-yeol, a conservative, is due to be sworn into office. Pyongyang last month tested its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) since 2017, as it ratchets up the diplomatic pressure on its regional neighbours and the United States.

The JCS urged Pyongyang to immediately stop the ballistic missile tests, which it criticised as a “clear” breach of UN Security Council resolutions and a “grave threat” that undermines peace on the Korean Peninsula and beyond.

“Our military is tracking and monitoring related movements to prepare against the possibility of an additional launch, and it is maintaining a full readiness posture,” the JCS said in a text message sent to reporters.

NK News, a media outlet focused on North Korea, said it had obtained photographs showing a plume of white smoke against a blue sky showing a vertical trajectory.

Last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un promised to speed up the development of his country’s nuclear arsenal as he watched a huge military parade to mark the anniversary of the founding of the army.

Japan also detected the North Korean launch and quickly condemned it.

“North Korea’s series of actions that threatens the peace, safety and stability of the international community are impermissible,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters during his visit to Rome.

Kishida said he’ll discuss the launch when he meets Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi later Wednesday. “Naturally, we will exchange views on the regional situation in the Indo-Pacific and East Asia, and I will thoroughly explain the reality of the region including the North Korean missile launch today, to gain understanding about the pressing situation in the East Asia,” he said.

Japanese Vice Defense Minister Makoto Oniki said that the missile was believed to have landed in waters outside of the Japanese Exclusive Economic Zone. There has been no report of damage or injury reported from vessels and aircraft in the area.

It wasn’t immediately known what missile North Korea launched. South Korea’s military said the missile flew about 470 kilometers (290 miles) at the apogee of 780 kilometers (485 miles), while Oniki of Japan said it traveled about 500 kilometers (310 miles) at the maximum altitude of 800 kilometers (500 miles).

North Korea’s heightened pace in weapons testing this year underscores its dual goal of advancing its missile programmes and applying pressure on Washington over a deepening freeze in nuclear negotiations, experts say.

There are also signs that the North is preparing for a nuclear test at its remote north-eastern testing facility.

Last week, Kim showcased his most powerful missiles during a massive military parade in capital, Pyongyang, where he vowed to develop his arsenal at the “fastest possible pace” and warned that the North would proactively use its nuclear weapons if its national interests were threatened.

Source: With Agencies

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