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PoliticsNorth Korea

North Korea fires projectile off east coast

January 5, 2022

Japanese and South Korean authorities have said the projectile is suspected to be a ballistic missile, which would be the first such launch by North Korea since October 2021.

People in Seoul a TV with a missile firing
People in Seoul watch news coverage of suspected North Korean missile launch on WednesdayImage: Yonhap/picture alliance

North Korea fired at least one unidentified projectile off its east coast on Wednesday, South Korea's military said.

The projectile was fired into the sea east of the Korean peninsula, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. They later added that it was suspected to be a ballistic missile.

What did Japanese and South Korean authorities say?

Japanese media reported that the suspected ballistic missile landed in the Sea of Japan, outside of Japanese territorial waters. Japan's defense minister, Nobuo Kishi, told reporters that the projectile flew about 500 kilometres (310 miles).

North Korea is forbidden by international sanctions from testing ballistic missiles, but frequently carries out tests

"Since last year, North Korea has repeatedly launched missiles, which is very regrettable," Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters.

Four images of a North Korean missile test
North Korea test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile in OctoberImage: Yonhap/Picture alliance

"Our military is maintaining readiness posture in preparation for a possible additional launch while closely monitoring the situation in close cooperation with the United States," the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

South Korea's National Security Council convened an emergency meeting, and said that the launch "came at a time when internal and external stability is extremely important" and called on North Korea to return to talks.

On Wednesday, Japan's foreign ministry said the country's foreign and defense ministers would hold talks with their US counterparts on Friday to discuss security issues. 

Later Wednesday, US State Department spokesman Ned Price condemned the North Korean ballistic missile launch, calling it a violation of numerous UN Security Council resolutions and a threat to Pyongyang's neighbors.

North Korea vows to boost military capability

The launch would be the first of 2022 North Korea, and comes days after leader Kim Jong Un vowed to continue boosting military capability during a ruling party conference last week. 

North Korea has been met with international sanctions as a reaction to its nuclear weapons development and ballistic missile testing. 

The United Nations Security Council first imposed sanctions on Pyongyang in 2006 after the country's first nuclear test, and sanctions have been made tougher after subsequent tests. Dialogue between North Korea and the US on reliving sanctions in exchange for denuclearization remains stalled.

The last known North Korean missile test was a submarine-launched ballistic missile fired in October 2021. That came after 4 tests of different missile types earlier in October and September, including a train-launched missile and what was described as a hypersonic warhead. 

sdi/wmr (AFP, Reuters)