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South Korea conducts major missile test after North Korean launches


SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA – South Korea said it carried out its first test of a submarine-launched missile, hours after its North Korean rival fired two ballistic missiles towards the sea.

President Moon Jae-in’s office said in a statement that Moon observed the test of a ballistic missile launched by a nation-built submarine on Wednesday afternoon.

It indicates that the missile fired from a 3,000 ton class submarine traveled a predetermined distance before hitting a designated target.

The announcement follows two North Korean ballistic missile fire detected by South Korea earlier on Wednesday.

THIS IS A CURRENT UPDATE. AP’s previous story is below:

North Korea fired two ballistic missiles towards the sea in defiance of UN resolutions, the second weapons test in several days which experts say shows it continues its weapons-boosting plans as the nuclear diplomacy with the United States remains at a standstill.

South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missiles, launched from central North Korea, traveled about 800 kilometers (497 miles) for an apogee of 60 kilometers (37 miles) before landing in the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan. The military said South Korean and US intelligence authorities were analyzing more details of the launches.

The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said the launches, while underscoring the destabilizing impact of North Korea’s illicit weapons program, did not pose an immediate threat to “U.S. personnel or territory, or for our allies “.

“The gunfire threatens the peace and security of Japan and the region and is absolutely scandalous,” Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said. “The government of Japan is determined to further intensify its vigilance and surveillance to prepare for any eventuality.”

The Japanese Coast Guard said no ships or planes had reported damage from the missiles.

The launches were a violation of UN Security Council resolutions that prohibit North Korea from engaging in ballistic missile activity. But the UN Council generally does not impose new sanctions on North Korea when it launches short-range missiles, like those fired on Wednesday.

The latest launches came two days after North Korea said it had tested a newly developed cruise missile twice over the weekend. North Korean state media described the missile as a “strategic weapon of great importance”, implying that it was developed with the intention of carrying nuclear warheads. According to North Korean accounts, the missile has demonstrated its ability to strike targets 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) away, a distance that puts all Japanese and US military installations within easy reach.

Many experts say recent tests suggest that North Korea is pushing to bolster its arsenal of weapons while pressuring President Joe Biden’s administration amid a stalemate in nuclear diplomacy between Pyongyang and Washington.

“North Korea is implementing a missile development schedule that was planned before Biden came to power. This schedule may be adjusted for political reasons but is primarily determined by security strategy and technical factors,” said Leif-Eric Easley, professor of international studies. at Ewha University in Seoul.

Wednesday’s launches came as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was in Seoul for meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and other senior officials to discuss stalled nuclear talks with the North.

It is unusual for North Korea to make provocative launches when China, its last great ally and biggest aid provider, is engaged in a major diplomatic event.

Moon’s office said Moon told Wang he appreciated China’s role in the international diplomatic push to resolve the North Korean nuclear standoff and asked for Beijing’s continued support. Wang said Beijing will continue to support the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the improvement of relations between the Koreas.

Moon’s office said the government plans to hold an unscheduled National Security Council meeting later Wednesday.

Talks between the United States and North Korea have stalled since 2019, when the Americans rejected the North’s demand for major sanctions relief in exchange for dismantling an aging nuclear facility. Kim’s government has so far threatened to manufacture high-tech weapons targeting the United States and has rejected the Biden administration’s overtures for dialogue, demanding that Washington first abandon its “hostile” policies.

North Korea ended a year-long hiatus in ballistic testing in March by firing two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea, continuing the tradition of testing new U.S. administrations with weapons demonstrations aimed at measuring Washington’s response and wresting concessions.

North Korea still maintains a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile testing, a sign that it may not want to completely scuttle nuclear negotiations with the United States.

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Associated Press writer Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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