North Korea launched an unidentified projectile into the sea, South Korea and Japan said on Wednesday, marking Pyongyang’s first such test in the new year.
According to the South Korean military, Pyongyang fired what is “presumed to be a ballistic missile” into the sea to the east of the peninsula (Sea of Japan, or East Sea as the Korean term calls it) towards 08:10 local time (23:10 GMT Tuesday).
“South Korean and American intelligence services are analyzing it carefully for more details,” South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida spoke of a “possible ballistic missile launch” without failing to regret that “North Korea has launched missiles continuously since last year”.
Mr Kishida told reporters that the Japanese government was analyzing the details, including the number of missiles that may have been launched.
“No damage has been reported to Japanese planes and ships so far,” Japanese government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters, adding that the projectile appeared to have “traveled about 500 kilometers and fell. outside the exclusive economic zone of Japan “.
The year 2021 was marked by major advances in armaments for North Korea, which claimed to have successfully tested a new type of submarine-launched ballistic missile, a long-range cruise missile and a weapon launched by a train and which it declared to be a hypersonic warhead.
At an important meeting of the ruling party last week, the North Korean leader affirmed his willingness to strengthen the military capabilities of his country, despite being under international sanctions.
– Negotiations stalled –
This new attempt comes as North Korea has not responded to Washington’s offer to meet with US officials to negotiate.
Negotiations with the United States have stalled since the failure, in 2019, of the meeting between Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump, then President of the United States.
Since President Joe Biden took office a year ago, the United States has repeatedly declared its readiness to meet with North Korean officials. But Pyongyang has so far rejected the offer, accusing Washington of pursuing “hostile” policies.
In a speech last week after a plenary meeting of the Workers’ Party, Kim Jong Un said he wanted to continue his weapons program, not to mention the United States.
Unlike in previous years, when his New Year’s address focused on foreign policy, the leader made economic development and the food situation his priority, confined himself to asserting that he kept in mind “the military environment. in the Korean Peninsula “and the international situation.
“Pyongyang sends the message to the United States that it will not change and that it is up to Washington to give in,” Shin Beom-chul, a researcher at the Korea National Strategy Research Institute, told AFP.
The North Korean regime, which is under international sanctions for its banned military programs, suffers from food shortages.
The pressure on its economy has been heightened by the orderly border closures to combat the pandemic, but that has not stopped Pyongyang from expanding its weapons program, according to a United Nations report released in October.
The North Korean leader admitted in June that his country was facing a “tense food situation”.
In October, a United Nations human rights expert warned that the most vulnerable were “threatened with famine”.