Seoul, South Korea
North Korea fired what appeared to be the most powerful missile it has tested since President Joe Biden took office on Sunday, as it revives its old tightrope playbook to snatch concessions to Washington and its neighbors in a protracted diplomatic standoff.
The Japanese and South Korean militaries said the missile was launched on a high trajectory, apparently to avoid neighboring territorial spaces, and reached a maximum altitude of 2,000 kilometers (1,242 miles) and traveled 800 kilometers (497 miles) before landing at sea.
Flight details suggest the North has been testing its longest-range ballistic missile since 2017, when it twice flew intermediate-range ballistic missiles over Japan and, separately, three intercontinental ballistic missiles that have demonstrated the potential to reach deeply into the American homeland.
Sunday’s test was North Korea’s seventh round of launches this month. The unusually fast pace of testing signals his intention to pressure the Biden administration over long-running nuclear negotiations as pandemic-related difficulties put further pressure on an economy shattered by decades of mismanagement and sanctions. US-led cripples.
Desperate for outside help, Kim has shown no willingness to surrender the nuclear weapons and missiles he sees as his best guarantee of survival. Analysts say Kim’s pressure campaign is aimed at forcing Washington to accept the North as a nuclear power and convert its nuclear disarmament diplomacy into aiding negotiations for a mutual arms reduction.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in called an emergency National Security Council meeting where he described the test as a possible “medium-range ballistic missile launch” that brought North Korea to the brink of breaking its self-imposed 2018 moratorium on nuclear testing. longer range devices and missiles.
Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi also told reporters the missile was the longest-range missile the North had tested since its Hwasong-15 ICBM in November 2017.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un chaired a ruling party meeting on January 20, during which senior party officials made a veiled threat to lift the moratorium, citing what they perceived as hostility and American threats.
The latest launch suggests Kim’s moratorium has already been broken, said Lee Choon Geun, a missile expert and honorary fellow at South Korea’s Science and Technology Policy Institute.
In his strongest comments to the North in years, Moon said the situation around the Korean Peninsula was starting to look like 2017, when North Korea’s provocative run in nuclear and long-range missile testing took off. led to an exchange of war threats between Kim and the then president. Donald Trump.
Moon said the North’s latest moves violated UN Security Council resolutions and posed a ‘challenge to the international community’s efforts to denuclearize the Korean peninsula, stabilize peace and find a diplomatic solution’ to the impasse. .
The North “should cease actions that create tension and pressure and respond to offers of dialogue from the international community, including South Korea and the United States,” Moon said, according to his office.
Moon’s efforts to reach out to North Korea were derailed after the failed second Kim-Trump meeting in 2019, when the Americans rejected North Korea’s request for major sanctions relief in exchange of a partial transfer of its nuclear capacities.
Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Hirokazu Matsuno, said Sunday’s missile flew for about 30 minutes and landed in waters outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone. There were no immediate reports of damage to boats or planes.
The US Indo-Pacific Command said the United States condemned North Korea’s testing activities and called on Pyongyang to refrain from further destabilizing acts. He said the latest launch “did not pose an immediate threat to U.S. personnel, territory or that of our allies.”
Takehiro Funakoshi, director general of Asian and Oceanian affairs at Japan’s foreign ministry, discussed the launch in separate phone calls with Sung Kim, Biden’s special envoy for North Korea, and Noh Kyu-duk, l South Korean nuclear envoy. Officials agreed Sunday’s missile had increased destructive power and reaffirmed trilateral cooperation in the face of the North Korean threat, Japan’s foreign ministry said.
Experts say the North may halt its round of testing after the start of the Winter Olympics in Beijing next week out of respect for China, its main ally and economic lifeline. But it’s also expected he could dramatically up the ante on arms demonstrations once the Olympics are over in February to get the attention of the Biden administration, which has focused more on confronting China and Russia over its conflict with Ukraine.
“North Korea is launching a missile spree ahead of the start of the Beijing Olympics, mostly as part of military modernization efforts. Pyongyang also wants to boost national pride as it prepares to celebrate political anniversaries amid economic struggles,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.
“He wants to remind Washington and Seoul that trying to overthrow him would be too costly. By threatening stability in Asia as global resources dwindle elsewhere, Pyongyang is asking the world to compensate it for acting as a “responsible nuclear power”, Easley added.
US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Washington had imposed sanctions on North Korea in recent weeks and was considering other options.
“We are open to diplomatic discussions. We have repeatedly offered it to the DPRK. And they didn’t accept it,” Thomas-Greenfield said on ABC’s “This Week.”
“Our goal is to end the threatening actions the DPRK is carrying out against its neighbors,” she said, referring to North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
North Korea has justified its testing activities as an exercise of its right to self-defense. He threatened to take stronger action after the Biden administration imposed new sanctions following two tests of an alleged hypersonic missile earlier this month.
Yamaguchi reported from Tokyo.