South Korea, Japan and US confirm Thursday morning launch with Japanese saying at least two banned ballistic missiles were fired into sea.
North Korea launched two suspected ballistic missiles into the sea off its eastern coast, Japanese prime minister Suga Yoshihide said on Thursday, in a launch confirmed by the South and the United States, which is in the midst of a review of its policy towards the reclusive state.
North Korea is banned from developing ballistic missiles under United Nations Security Council Resolutions and the launch adds a new challenge to US President Joe Biden’s efforts to engage with Pyongyang.
Japan’s Suga said the two missiles fell into the sea outside Japanese waters.
“The first launch in just less than a year represents a threat to peace and stability in Japan and the region and violates UN resolutions,” Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said in comments aired by Japan’s public broadcaster NHK.
The missile launch took place only days after North Korea fired suspected cruise-missiles.
“With its return to testing different types of missiles, Pyongyang is flirting with the limits of what it can get away with under UN Security Council Resolutions,” Leif-Eric Easely, professor of international relations at Ewha Women’s University in Seoul told Reuters news agency.
“The Moon government has doubled down on peace building engagement and the Biden administration is looking to complete a policy review before taking any major moves. Strategists in Tokyo worry that North Korea is taking provocative actions to undermine cooperation among Japan, South Korea and the United States. The three countries are trying to get on the same page about deterrence, sanctions and engagement.”
Our most likely options at this point are the KN-23, KN-24 or the new SRBM. pic.twitter.com/xDozIRffq3
— Dr. Jeffrey Lewis (@ArmsControlWonk) March 25, 2021
Twofer suggests an operational test/exercise—perhaps involving one of the Ri Pyong Chol specials (KN23/KN24/KN25). Also what one would expect in March. https://t.co/XsOjtbMakG
— Ankit Panda (@nktpnd) March 24, 2021
US officials confirmed to Reuters news agency that Thursday morning’s test had taken place but did not offer details. In a statement, the US military’s Pacific Command said the launches highlighted the threat posed to North Korea’s neighbours by its illicit weapons programme.
Japan said North Korea fired one ballistic missile at 7.04am (22:04 GMT) and a second at 7.23am towards the east. Each flew for about 420 kilometres (261 miles) and 430 kilometres, respectively, before falling into the sea, it added.
Suga said he would “thoroughly discuss” the issue of North Korea, including the launches, when he visits Washington, DC next month.
The Japanese coastguard earlier warned ships against coming close to any fallen objects, advising them to provide information on any debris discovered to the authorities.
Pyongyang has made rapid progress in its capabilities under leader Kim Jong Un, testing missiles capable of reaching the entire continental US as tensions mounted in 2017.
Thursday’s launch follows reports that Pyongyang tested two short-range missiles – suspected to be cruise missiles – over the weekend after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin wrapped up their first visit to Northeast Asia.
The Biden administration, which is reviewing its US policy on North Korea, played down those launches, saying the US remained open to negotiations with Pyongyang.
The US and South Korea are analysing the data of the launch for additional information, the JCS said in a statement, with the presidential Blue House convening an emergency meeting of the national security council to discuss the launches.
The US administration’s North Korea policy review is in its “final stages” and the national security advisers of Japan and South Korea are expected in the US next week to discuss it, senior US officials said on Wednesday.