North Korea fired a new type of ballistic missile on Friday, in its first such launch since October, as it seeks to pressure the United States and its allies to resume dialogue and ease sanctions on its nuclear and missile programs.
The missile was launched from a site near the capital Pyongyang and flew about 800 kilometers (500 miles) before landing in the sea between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, according to South Korea’s military and Japan’s defense ministry. Both countries condemned the launch as a violation of UN Security Council resolutions that ban North Korea from testing ballistic missiles.
The US Indo-Pacific Command said the launch did not pose an immediate threat to US personnel or territory, or to its allies, but said the North’s unlawful weapons programs had a destabilizing effect on the region and the world.
North Korea’s state media KCNA said the missile was a “newly developed medium-range ballistic missile” that was “more powerful and accurate” than previous models. It said the test was aimed at verifying the missile’s performance and reliability, and that it was “of great significance” for enhancing the country’s defense capabilities.
The launch came a day after North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un vowed to continue to strengthen the country’s nuclear deterrent and military power, citing the “hostile policy” of the US and its allies. He also said that North Korea was ready to respond to any dialogue or confrontation from the US, but warned that it would not tolerate any interference in its internal affairs.
North Korea has been under increasing pressure from the US and its allies to return to the negotiating table on its nuclear and missile programs, which have been stalled since the collapse of the second summit between Kim and former US President Donald Trump in Hanoi in February 2023.
The US special envoy for North Korea, Sung Kim, visited Seoul last week and reiterated Washington’s willingness to engage with Pyongyang “anywhere, anytime, without preconditions”. He also urged North Korea to refrain from further provocations and respect its commitments under the 2018 Singapore summit declaration, which called for the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
However, North Korea has shown no signs of interest in dialogue, and instead has ramped up its rhetoric and activities in recent months. It has accused the US and South Korea of conducting hostile military exercises and violating its sovereignty with spy plane flights. It has also threatened to take “stronger” countermeasures against the US and its allies.
Analysts say that North Korea is trying to increase its leverage and gain concessions from the US and its allies, such as sanctions relief and security guarantees, before agreeing to resume talks. They also warn that North Korea may conduct more provocative actions in the coming months, such as testing a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) or an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
The launch on Friday also coincided with the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to Manila, where he met with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and discussed regional security issues, including North Korea and China. Kishida said that Japan and the Philippines shared “grave concerns” over North Korea’s missile launch and agreed to cooperate closely to maintain peace and stability in the region.
Japan has been particularly alarmed by North Korea’s missile threats, as some of its missiles are capable of reaching Japanese territory or its exclusive economic zone. Japan has deployed missile defense systems and sought to strengthen its alliance with the US and its cooperation with South Korea and other partners to deter and respond to North Korea’s provocations.