SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (AP) – North Korea launched a ballistic missile into the sea yesterday, its neighbours said, in a resumption of weapons tests that came as the United States (US) and its allies are focussed on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The missile launch was the eighth of its kind this year. Some experts have said North Korea is trying to perfect its weapons technology and pressure the US into offering concessions like sanctions relief amid long-stalled disarmament talks.
North Korea also might view the US preoccupation with the Ukraine conflict as a chance to accelerate testing activity without any serious response from Washington.
Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said the North Korean missile flew about 300 kilometres at a maximum altitude of about 600 kilometres before landing off North Korea’s eastern coast and outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone. No damage to vessels or aircraft has been reported, he said.
“If North Korea deliberately carried out the missile launch while the international community is distracted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, such an act is absolutely unforgivable,” he told reporters.
“Whatever the motives are, North Korea’s repeated missile launches are absolutely inexcusable and we cannot overlook considerable missile and nuclear advancement.”
South Korean officials said they detected the launch from the North’s capital area and expressed “deep concerns and grave regret” over it.
During an emergency National Security Council meeting, top South Korean officials said the timing of the launch, during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, “is not desirable at all for peace and stability in the world and on the Korean Peninsula”, the presidential Blue House said.
The US Indo-Pacific Command later yesterday condemned the launch and called on North Korea to refrain from further destabilising acts. A statement said the US commitment to the defence of South Korea and Japan “remains ironclad”, though yesterday’s launch didn’t pose an immediate threat to US territory and that of its allies.
North Korea last month conducted seven rounds of missile tests, a record number of monthly launches since leader Kim Jong-Un took power in late 2011. North Korea halted testing activity after the start of the Winter Olympics in China, its last major ally and economic pipeline, earlier this month.