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PoliticsNorth Korea

North Korea tests another ballistic missile: Seoul

November 9, 2022

South Korea's military said Pyongyang fired a ballistic missile toward the Sea of Japan. This follows a flurry of tests last week, where North Korea claimed it was responding to joint US-South Korean military drills.

Debris of a North Korean missile salvaged from South Korean waters that was identified as parts of a Soviet-era SA-5 surface-to-air missile is seen at the Defense Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, November 9, 2022.
Also on Wednesday, South Korea displayed the wreckage of another North Korean missile recovered from its watersImage: Yonhap/REUTERS

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) reported another North Korean ballistic missile launch on Wednesday, soon after Japanese authorities also noted a suspected ballistic missile launch. 

The JCS said that the short-range missile was launched from the western town of Sukchon, north of the capital Pyongyang, and flew across the country towards waters off the North's eastern coast. 

Wednesday's launch came after North Korea fired dozens of missiles last week, saying the heightened activity was a reaction to a major combined aerial military exercise conducted by the United States and South Korea. Pyongyang described these "Vigilant Storm" drills as a rehearsal for invasion.

Seoul's military said it had "detected a short-range ballistic missile launched by North Korea into the East Sea from Sukchon, South Pyongan Province, at around 15:31," referring to the body of water also known as the Sea of Japan.

"Strengthening surveillance and vigilance, the South Korean military maintains full preparedness while closely cooperating with the United States," it added.

The JCS said the missile flew roughly 290 kilometers (180 miles) at an altitude of around 30 kilometers and a speed around Mach 6 — roughly in line with the fastest missiles Pyongyang has tested in the past.

The US military said the launch posed no immediate threat and that it was in consultation with allies.

The launch also coincided with vote counting for the US midterm election, which South Korea had highlighted as a possible time for a mooted seventh North Korean nuclear test.

Unprecedented frequency of tests by Pyongyang

Earlier the same day, South Korea put on display the recovered debris (pictured at the top of the story) of one of the missiles launched last week. It said that the projectile had been identified as a Soviet-era SA5 anti-aircraft weapon dating back to the 1960s. 

The missile was one of more than 20 fired in a single day last Wednesday, and landed near the South Korean island of Elleung, triggering air raid sirens and an evacuation order.

Debris of a North Korean missile salvaged from South Korean waters that was identified as parts of a Soviet-era SA-5 surface-to-air missile is seen at the Defense Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, November 9, 2022.
South Korea said that the same SA-5 surface-to-air missile type had been used by Russia against Ukraine in recent monthsImage: Yonhap/REUTERS

This prompted speculation that the North might have been forced to dip into its more dated weapons stock in order to bolster the number of projectiles it could launch.

Japan's Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said on Wednesday that intensifying North Korean testing activity was "significantly heightening" regional tensions and that he had complained to Pyongyang via their embassies in Beijing. 

Last week's high volume of tests is also part of a trend lasting all year, with North Korea testing roughly twice as many missiles as it has in any previous year. The previous high water mark was in 2017, a series of tests coinciding with its sixth nuclear test that helped prompt former US President Donald Trump's bid to engage in direct diplomacy with Kim Jong Un

Subsequent talks between the US and North Korea made no obvious progress and have been stalled since 2019. North Korea has so far rejected offers of open-ended talks from President Joe Biden's administration, calling on the US to abandon its "hostile" policies first, comments usually interpreted as an appeal for sanctions relief. 

North Korea also tested an intercontinental ballistic missile last week, although South Korean officials said they believed it had not functioned properly. 

Also on Wednesday, South Korea was conducting four-day computer-simulated military drills of its own scheduled to run until Thursday.

msh/sms (AFP, AP, dpa)