N. Korea tests second ‘advanced’ missile in less than a week: Seoul
Experts underscored that the Kim Jong-un regime needs to show substantial achievement in developing defense capabilities, noting the importance of this year filled with political anniversaries.
North Korea on Tuesday test-fired an apparent ballistic missile from an inland area toward its east coast in its second weapons test in less than a week, while the South Korean military said the missile has “advanced” capabilities compared to the previous one.
The United States Forces Korea said it was “aware of the DPRK’s most recent ballistic missile launch and are consulting closely with our allies and partners” in a statement. DPRK refers to North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People‘s Republic of Korea.
The USFK’s assessment is that the missile launch “does not pose an immediate threat to US personnel or territory, or to the Republic of Korea,” adding that the US commitment to the defense of South Korea “remains ironclad.”
But South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the military “detected one projectile, which is presumed to be a ballistic missile, being fired from the Jagang Province area into the East Sea at around 07:27 a.m.”
Seoul’s initial evaluation shows that the projectile traveled at a top speed of around Mach 10 and at a maximum altitude of 60 kilometers.
The Rodong-type missiles fly at speeds of around Mach 9 or 10 and the Musudan-type missiles fly at the speed of Mach 14 or more in a boosting phase, but the missiles are not classified as a hypersonic missile.
Also, South Korea’s JCS said Tuesday‘s missile flew more than 700 kilometers.
But there is a discrepancy in flight distance detected by the South Korean and Japanese authorities. Japan’s Defense Ministry said the projectile was possibly a ballistic missile, which would have flown less than 700 km if following the normal trajectory of a ballistic missile.
South Korea’s JCS declined to share further details and it said the South Korean and US intelligence authorities were analyzing further details, specifications, and characteristics of the missile test launch.
But the JCS assessed that the projectile was “an advanced one compared to the ballistic missile launched on Jan. 5.”
A military source on Tuesday additionally explained that Seoul made the evaluation based on detected specifications, including speed and flight distance, refusing to confirm the type of the ballistic missile.
The JCS reiterated that the South Korean military “has capabilities to detect and intercept the projectile and continues to strengthen the response system,” criticizing the successive missile launches.
“North Korea’s recent series of ballistic missile launches clearly violates the ‘UN Security Council resolutions,’” the JCS said.
"We urge to immediately stop a launch given that it poses a significant threat to international peace and safety and it does not helpful in easing military tensions amid ongoing diplomatic efforts to establish peace on the Korean peninsula.”
The USFK denounced that the missile launch, saying it “highlights the destabilizing impact of the DPRK’s illicit weapons program.”
The presidential National Security Council immediately held a 50-minute emergency meeting Tuesday morning and expressed “strong regret” over the test, which came at a time when regional stability is extremely critical.
Tuesday’s launch came less than a week after North Korea on Jan. 5 test-fired what it claimed was a “hypersonic missile.”
Experts noted the test would simultaneously aim to fulfill domestic purposes and send messages mainly to South Korea and the US with the goal of raising the stakes for dialogue and increasing pressure on them.
Kim In-tae, a senior research fellow at the government-run Institute for National Security Strategy, said the test was in line with Pyongyang’s continued demands to withdraw the US’ “hostile policy” toward the county and “unequal double standards” against its military buildup, including its missile tests.
“Through the consecutive weapon tests, North Korea sends the message of urging South Korea and the US to withdraw the hostile policy and double standards and to change their attitude toward the country,” Kim told The Korea Herald. “Pyongyang puts pressure on Seoul and Washington.”
Notably, Tuesday’s missile test, which appears to be Pyongyang’s continuing attempt to legitimize its missile tests, came during the UN Security Council‘s closed-door meeting on North Korea’s missile test last week.