North Korea fired a ballistic missile into the sea on Friday, South Korea’s military said, in an apparent show of defiance against the stalled nuclear talks with the United States.
The missile was launched from the eastern coastal city of Hamhung at around 10:30 a.m. local time, and flew about 500 kilometers (310 miles) before landing in the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, according to a statement by South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).
The JCS said it was analyzing the details of the launch, such as the type and range of the missile, in close coordination with the US and other allies. It added that it was maintaining a high level of readiness and monitoring the situation for any further provocations.
The US military confirmed the launch and said it posed no immediate threat to US personnel or territory, or to its allies. “We remain committed to a diplomatic approach to the DPRK and call on them to engage in dialogue,” said a statement from the US Indo-Pacific Command, using the acronym for North Korea’s official name.
Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida condemned the launch as a “clear violation” of UN Security Council resolutions that ban North Korea from testing ballistic missiles. He said Japan would work closely with the US, South Korea and other countries to urge North Korea to refrain from further provocations and return to the negotiating table.
Friday’s launch is North Korea’s 32nd this year, according to a CNN count, and comes amid a prolonged impasse in the denuclearization talks with the US, which have been stalled since 2019. North Korea has repeatedly rejected US offers of dialogue, demanding that Washington drop its “hostile policy” and lift sanctions first.
North Korea has also expressed frustration with South Korea’s military cooperation with the US, which it views as a rehearsal for invasion. Last month, North Korea test-fired a new hypersonic missile, which it claimed could penetrate any missile defense system, in response to a joint air force drill by the US and South Korea.
Experts have warned that North Korea is rapidly advancing its nuclear and missile capabilities, posing a growing threat to regional and global security. Some analysts have speculated that North Korea may be preparing for a seventh nuclear test, which would be its first since 2017, based on satellite imagery showing activity at its underground test site.
The launch also comes ahead of the Winter Olympics in Beijing next month, which some observers have hoped could provide an opportunity for a diplomatic breakthrough. China, North Korea’s main ally and trading partner, has been calling for a resumption of dialogue and a phased approach to denuclearization.
However, North Korea has not confirmed its participation in the Olympics, and has shown no signs of easing its hardline stance. On Thursday, North Korea’s state media reported that leader Kim Jong Un had overseen a military parade and inspected a new submarine-launched ballistic missile, which he described as a “powerful weapon” that would “thoroughly subdue the enemy.”