SEOUL – North Korea fired on Monday (Jan 17) what could be a ballistic missile, Japan’s government said, in what would be the fourth test this month as Pyongyang forges ahead with new military developments amid stalled stalks with the United States and South Korea.
South Korea’s military also reported that the North had fired an “unidentified projectile” toward the ocean off its east coast.
In less than two weeks, nuclear-armed North Korea has conducted three other missile tests, an unusual frequency of launches. Two of those involved single “hypersonic missiles” capable of high speeds and manoeuvring after launch, while the last, on Friday, involved a pair of short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) fired from train cars.
It was not immediately known what kind of missile was involved in Monday’s reported launch.
The launches have drawn both condemnation and an appeal for dialogue from a US administration that has imposed new sanctions over previous North Korean missile launches and is pushing for more.
US President Joe Biden’s administration imposed its first new sanctions on Pyongyang on Wednesday, and called on the UN Security Council to blacklist several North Korean individuals and entities. It also repeated calls for dialogue, urging Pyongyang to return to talks aimed at reducing tensions and persuading it to surrender its arsenal of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
North Korea has defended the missile tests as its sovereign right to self-defence and accused the United States of intentionally escalating the situation with new sanctions.
In a statement ahead of Friday’s missile tests, the North Korean foreign ministry said that while Washington might talk of diplomacy and dialogue, its actions showed it was still engrossed in its policy for “isolating and stifling” North Korea.
The launches came as North Korea, more isolated than ever under self-imposed border closings aimed at preventing a Covid-19 pandemic, appeared to be preparing to open at least some trade across its land border with China.
Chinese brokers said they expect the resumption of regular trade with North Korea as soon as Monday, after a North Korean train pulled into a Chinese border town on Sunday in the first such crossing since anti-coronavirus border lockdowns began in 2020.