South Korea says North Korea fired a test missile toward the sea

SEOUL – North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile at its eastern seas on Sunday, continuing a provocative series of weapons tests as a US aircraft carrier visits South Korea for joint military exercises in response to the North’s growing nuclear threat.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missile, which was launched from the western inland town of Taechon, flew across the country before landing in waters off North Korea’s east coast. The Southern military did not immediately release more details about the weapon, including the type of missile or the weapon’s range.

North Korea ramped up its testing activities to a record pace in 2022, testing more than 30 ballistic weapons, including its first ICBMs since 2017, while continuing to expand its military capabilities amid an ongoing nuclear diplomacy standoff.

The start came as nuclear power Aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and his strike force arrived in South Korea for the two countries’ joint military exercises aimed at demonstrating their strength against growing North Korean threats.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said in a statement Tokyo was “doing its utmost” to gather information about the North Korean launch and to confirm the safety of ships and planes, although there were no immediate reports of damage.

The North Korean threat is also expected to be a key agenda Visit of US Vice President Kamala Harris South Korea next week after attending the state funeral of assassinated former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo.

North Korea ramped up its testing activities to a record pace in 2022, testing more than 30 ballistic weapons, including its first ICBMs since 2017. North Korea is exploiting a rift in the United Nations Security Council that has deepened over Russia’s war in Ukraine to speed up arms development .

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has paused his weapons tests with repeated threats that the North would do it proactively use its nuclear weapons under threat, increasing security concerns for its conventionally armed rival South Korea.

North Korea has so far dismissed US and South Korean calls for a return to nuclear diplomacy, which have stalled since 2019 over disagreements over lifting US-led sanctions on the North and North’s disarmament moves.

The arrival of the USS Reagan in South Korea came after Kim told Pyongyang’s Stamp Parliament this month that he would never give up its nuclear weapons and missiles he must confront what he perceives as US hostility.

His speech came as North Korea’s lawmakers passed new legislation enshrining its status as a nuclear power, authorizing the pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons in a variety of scenarios threatening the country or its leadership, and articulating an escalating nuclear doctrine.

Speaking to US and South Korean troops aboard the Reagan, South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup said the deployment of strategic US assets to the region demonstrates the US’s unwavering commitment to defending South Korea. He said the North will meet with an overwhelming response if it attempts to use nuclear weapons, according to a statement from his ministry.

It’s possible Sunday’s test could soon be followed by a more provocative weapons demonstration, as South Korean officials said they’ve spotted signs North Korea is preparing to test a missile system to be launched from submarines. South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s office said on Saturday that he was briefed on such developments before flying home from a visit to Canada.

On Wednesday, 38 North, a North Korea-aligned website, said its analysis of commercial satellite imagery shows several barges and other ships gathered in the eastern port of Sinpo, where North Korea has a major shipyard that builds submarines. According to the report, the North may be preparing to launch a new submarine capable of launching ballistic missiles.

North Korea has pushed hard to be able to do this firing nuclear-armed missiles from submarineswhich it sees as a key element in building a nuclear arsenal that can seriously threaten its neighbors and eventually the American homeland.

Such weapons would theoretically increase North Korea’s deterrence by ensuring retaliatory action after averting a nuclear attack on land. Ballistic missile submarines would also add a new maritime threat to the North’s growing collection of solid fuel weapons fired from land vehicles being developed with the apparent aim of overpowering missile defense systems in South Korea and Japan.

However, experts say the heavily sanctioned nation would need significantly more time, resources and major technological upgrades to build at least several submarines that could sail quietly and deliver attacks reliably.


Associated Press writer Yuri Kageyama contributed to the story from Tokyo.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission. South Korea says North Korea fired a test missile toward the sea

Sarah Y. Kim

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