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North Korea launches two missiles as the United States condemns the series of tests

FILE PHOTO - A North Korean flag flies on a mast at the Permanent Mission of North Korea in Geneva October 2, 2014. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Picture

Nuclear-armed On Thursday, North Korea fired what seemed to be two short-range ballistic missiles, sparking condemnation from the US for the sixth round of missile tests this month.

The news: As it enters 2022 with a dizzying exhibition of new and operational weapons, observers say the sequence of tests is among the most missiles ever launched by North Korea in a month.

  • The Joint Chiefs of Staff of South Korea said it had detected the launch of two ballistic missiles from near Hamhung, on North Korea’s east coast, at about 8 a.m. (2300 GMT). They travelled 190 kilometres to a height of 20 kilometres, according to JCS.
  • North Korea announced this month that it would beef up its anti-US defences and explore resuming “all temporally-suspended activities,” a clear allusion to a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests.
  • North Korea launched two cruise missiles into the sea off its east coast on Tuesday, escalating tensions over its nuclear tests.
  • North Korea launched tactical guided missiles, two hypersonic missiles capable of great speed and manoeuvrability after launch, and a railway-borne missile system earlier this month.

What they’re saying: “The (Kim Jong Un) regime is developing an impressive diversity of offensive weapons despite limited resources and serious economic challenges,” said Leif-Eric Easley, an international affairs professor at Ewha University in Seoul.

  • Certain launches are intended to demonstrate the readiness and variety of missile forces that North Korea has already deployed, while others are aimed to develop new capabilities, particularly for avoiding missile defences, he said.
  • “Some observers have suggested that the Kim regime’s frequent launches are a cry for attention, but Pyongyang is running hard in what it perceives as an arms race with Seoul,” Easley said.
  • North Korea’s Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Han Tae Song, accused the US of staging hundreds of “joint war drills” while shipping high-tech offensive military equipment into South Korea and nuclear strategic weapons into the region in a speech to the UN-sponsored Conference on Disarmament on Tuesday.
  • “(This) is seriously threatening the security of our state,” Han said.
  • The launches, according to a US State Department official, were in violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions and posed a threat to North Korea’s neighbours and the world community.
  • According to the spokeswoman, the US remains committed to a diplomatic approach and encourages North Korea to engage in conversation.
  • The US military’s Indo-Pacific Command said the launch was destabilising but did not constitute an immediate threat to US land or personnel, or to its allies, as with other recent tests.
  • The nuclear envoys of South Korea and the United States spoke by phone, sharing “grave concerns” over the latest test and agreeing to continue cooperating to avoid further escalation, according to Seoul’s foreign ministry.
  • North Korea’s “amazing growth” in nuclear and missile capability, according to Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, should not be disregarded.
  • The presidential Blue House stated in a statement that South Korea’s National Security Council called an emergency meeting, at which it said the launches were “extremely unfortunate” and went against appeals for peace and stability in the region.
  • At a media briefing in Bejing, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said China urged all parties to “speak and act with caution, stick to the right direction of dialogue and consultation, and jointly promote the political resolution of the Korean Peninsula issue.”

What happened: Several North Korean and Russian persons and businesses were sanctioned by US President Joe Biden’s administration this month on suspicion of aiding North Korea’s weapons programmes, but China and Russia blocked a US move to impose UN penalties on five North Koreans.

  • Mark Lambert, the United States’ Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Japan and Korea, said on Wednesday that the US had “no concerns” about talking to North Korea and was eager to meet anywhere and discuss anything.
  • North Korea has defended its missile testing as a sovereign right of self-defense, claiming that US sanctions prove that the US maintains a “hostile” stance even as it proposes dialogue.

North Korea has not launched or tested long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) or nuclear weapons since 2017, but it has begun testing a plethora of shorter-range missiles after denuclearization discussions with the US stopped in 2019.

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