North Korea conducts second suspected missile test in less than a week

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SEOUL (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) – North Korea fired what was believed to be a ballistic missile on Tuesday (Jan 11), South Korea’s military and the Japanese coast guard said, the second apparent launch in less than a week after the reclusive state’s leader urged more military advances.

The projectile appeared to have landed outside of Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the Kyodo news agency reported, citing government sources in Tokyo.  

Last week, North Korea said it fired a hypersonic missile that successfully hit a target last Wednesday.

South Korea’s Defence Ministry subsequently dismissed those claims, saying that they appeared to be “exaggerated” and that Pyongyang still had not developed the necessary technology for a hypersonic glide vehicle. 

The test launches by nuclear-armed North Korea underscored leader Mr Kim Jong Un’s New Year’s vow to bolster the military to counter an unstable international situation amid stalled talks with South Korea and the United States. 

Mr Kim’s regime has continued to develop its nuclear weapons programme, including with projectiles designed to evade interception by the US and its allies.

The North Korean leader indicated at a high-level meeting in the final days of last year that he was more interested in bolstering his arsenal than returning to stalled nuclear talks with the Biden administration.

Tuesday’s apparent launch came a day after the United States mission to the United Nations, joined by France, Ireland, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Albania, issued a joint statement condemning last week’s test.  

“These actions increase the risk of miscalculation and escalation and pose a significant threat to regional stability,” US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said in the statement on Monday.

Such tests not only improve the North’s capabilities, but expands what it can offer illicit arms clients and dealers around the world, she added.

“(North Korea) makes these military investments at the expense of the well-being of the North Korean people,” she said.  

UN Security Council resolutions ban all ballistic missile and nuclear tests by North Korea, and have imposed sanctions over the programmes.  

Ms Thomas-Greenfield reiterated calls for countries around the world to enforce sanctions, and for North Korea to return to talks and abandon its missiles and nuclear weapons.  

“Our goal remains the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula,” she said.  

The US State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday’s launch.  

North Korea has said it is open to talk, but only if the United States and others drop “hostile policies” such as sanctions and military drills.

Few observers expect Mr Kim to ever fully surrender his nuclear arsenal.

North Korea argues its missile tests and other military activities are for self-defence and are similar to those regularly undertaken by other nations. 

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