North Korea fires two suspected missiles in sixth launch this year

27 January 2022, 10:54

North Korean missile
North Korea Koreas Tensions. Picture: PA

Experts say the dictatorship’s unusually fast pace in testing activity underscores an intent to pressure the Biden administration.

North Korea has fired two suspected ballistic missiles into the sea in its sixth round of weapons launches this month, South Korea’s military said.

Experts say North Korea’s unusually fast pace in testing activity underscores an intent to pressure Washington over long-stalled negotiations aimed at exchanging a release of crippling US-led sanctions against Pyongyang and the North’s denuclearisation steps.

The renewed pressure comes as the pandemic further shakes the North’s economy, which had already been battered by sanctions over its nuclear weapons programme and decades of mismanagement by its own government.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the weapons, which were likely to be short-range, were launched five minutes apart from the eastern coastal town of Hamhung and flew 190 kilometres (118 miles) on an apogee of 20 kilometres (12.4 miles) before landing at sea.

North Korea US
Kim Jong Un is suspected to be attempting to pressure the US (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service/AP)

Aviation authorities issued a Notice to Airmen, or NOTAM, for pilots operating in South Korean air space, advising them of a “missile launched from North Korea” and to maintain close communication with air traffic controls, according to the website of South Korea’s Office of Civil Aviation.

The US Indo Pacific Command said the latest launches highlighted the destabilising impact of North Korea’s weapons programme, but did not pose an “immediate threat to US personnel or territory, or to our allies”.

Japan said the missiles did not reach its exclusive economic zone and there were no reports of damage to vessels or aircraft around its coast.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the North’s repeated missile firings were “extremely regrettable” and violated UN Security Council resolutions.

Senior South Korean security and military officials gathered for an emergency National Security Council meeting where they expressed strong regret over the North’s continuing launches and urged Pyongyang to recommit to dialogue, Seoul’s presidential office said.

The North last week issued a veiled threat to resume the testing of nuclear explosives and long-range missiles targeting the American homeland, which leader Kim Jong Un suspended in 2018 while initiating diplomacy with the US.

South Korea Koreas Tensions
People in Seoul watch a news report about the missile launches (Lee Jin-man/AP)

Mr Kim’s high-stakes summits with then-president Donald Trump derailed in 2019 after the Americans rejected North Korea’s demands for major sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities.

Some experts say Pyongyang could dramatically escalate weapons demonstrations after the Winter Olympics, which begin on February 4 in China, the North’s main ally and economic lifeline.

They say Pyongyang’s leadership is likely to feel it could use a dramatic provocation to move the needle with the Biden administration, which has been preoccupied with bigger adversaries including China and Russia.

The Biden administration has offered open-ended talks but showed no willingness to ease sanctions unless Mr Kim takes real steps to abandon the nuclear weapons and missiles he sees as his strongest guarantee of survival.

The North has been ramping up its testing activity since last autumn, demonstrating various missiles and delivery systems apparently designed to overwhelm missile defence systems in the region.

Experts say Mr Kim is trying to apply more pressure on rivals Washington and Seoul to accept it as a nuclear power in hopes of winning relief from economic sanctions and converting the diplomacy with Washington into mutual arms-reduction negotiations.

Thursday’s launch came two days after South Korea’s military detected the North flight-testing two suspected cruise missiles at an unspecified inland area.

North Korea opened 2022 with a pair of test-firings of a purported hypersonic missile, which Mr Kim described as an asset that would bolster his nuclear “war deterrent”.

The North also this month test-fired two different types of short-range ballistic missiles it has developed since 2019 that are designed to be manoeuvrable and fly at low altitudes, which experts say potentially improves their chances of evading and defeating missile defence systems.

By Press Association

Latest World News

See more Latest World News

In this photo taken from video released by the Russian defence ministry, Ukrainian servicemen line up to be checked as they leave the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol

Russia’s claim of Mariupol’s capture fuels concern for prisoners of war

Kourtney Kardashian, left, and Travis Barker

The Kardashians take to Portofino for Kourtney-Travis wedding

Miranda Atnip sits in her car in a car park

Tennessee homeless seek refuge as public camping becomes a felony crime

Enrique Owens, a cousin of Roberta Drury, wears a T-shirt with her photograph on it before her funeral service on Saturday May 21 2022 (Lauren Petracca/AP)

Youngest of 10 Buffalo shooting victims is laid to rest

Rescue workers run for cover as earth movers dig through rubble of a collapsed tunnel in Ramban district, south of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, on Friday May 20 2022

Nine more bodies found in Kashmir tunnel collapse – taking toll to 10

Anthony Albanese

Scott Morrison’s conservative government toppled in Australia

Tornado Michigan

Second death reported after rare tornado strikes Michigan

Anthony Albanese

Australian election: Albanese set to take power as Morrison concedes defeat

Gazprom headquarters

Russia hits back at Finland by halting all gas exports

Citizens cast their votes at a polling booth in Sydney, Australia

PM Scott Morrison concedes defeat in Australian election

Anthony Albanese will be Australia’s new prime minister after Scott Morrison, inset, conceded defeat

Australia 'votes for change' as republican Anthony Albanese leads Labor to election win

President Joe Biden waves as he boards Air Force One

Biden signs £32bn Ukraine assistance Bill during Asia trip

Ukrainian ambassador to Poland Andrii Deshchytsia speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Warsaw, Poland

Poles need EU funds as they help Ukrainians, ambassador says

Two trucks overturned after a storm in Paderborn, Germany

German storm generated three tornadoes, says weather service

US President Joe Biden listens to South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol speak during a news conference at the People’s House inside the Ministry of National Defence in Seoul

US and South Korea to consider expanded military drills amid North Korea concern

Jim Finn holds his eight-month-old daughter Allegra as he casts his vote at a polling booth in Sydney, Australia

Australians vote to determine conservative government future