North Korea 'fires ballistic missile towards the Sea of Japan'

North Korea ‘fires ballistic missile towards the Sea of Japan’: Kim Jong Un ‘tests projectile’ ahead of US drills and Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to the region amid tensions

  • North Korea believed to have fired a ballistic missile towards Sea of Japan
  • It comes days before a planned visit by the US Vice President Kamala Harris
  • Projectile is believed to have already fallen, according to Japan’s coast guards
  • North Korea has tested a record number of ballistic weapons since 2022 began 

North Korea has fired a suspected ballistic missile towards the Sea of Japan just days before US military drills and a visit by Vice President Kamala Harris to the region amid regional tensions, South Korea and Japan’s leadership have said.

South Korea’s military have claimed North Korea has fired at least one unidentified ballistic missile toward its eastern sea. 

Since the beginning of 2022, North Korea has dialed up its testing activities to a record pace – testing more than 30 ballistic weapons, including its first intercontinental ballistic missiles since 2017 – as it continues to expand its military capabilities amid a prolonged stalemate in nuclear diplomacy. 

The launch came as the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and its strike group arrived in South Korea for the two countries’ joint military exercise to meant to show their strength against growing North Korean threats.

It comes just days before a planned visit by the U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris. 

A stock image of a ballistic missile previously used during a test firing of what state media reported as a North Korean ‘new type’ off intercontinental ballistic missile

The threat from North Korea is expected to be a key agenda when Ms Harris visits South Korea next week after attending the state funeral in Tokyo of slain former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said this morning: ‘North Korea fired an unidentified ballistic missile into the East Sea.’

Japan’s coast guard also confirmed a likely ballistic missile launch, citing information from Tokyo’s defence ministry.

The coast guard said: ‘Vessels please be vigilant for new information and if you spot any foreign objects please don’t get closer to them but inform the coast guard.’

Japan’s public broadcaster NHK said the object appeared to have fallen outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff on Sunday did not immediately say what type of missile it was or how far it flew. 

It is the first time the North has carried out such a launch after it fired eight short-range ballistic missiles in one day earlier this year in June.

This led to the United States to call for more UN sanctions to be placed on the country for violating UN Security Council resolutions.

North Korea rejects UN resolutions as an infringement of its sovereign right to self defence and space exploration.

The launch today comes days after South Korean officials said they detected signs that North Korea was preparing to test a missile designed to be fired from submarines, reported Yonhap news agency, based in South Korea.

The office of South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol earlier said that he was briefed on possible North Korean preparations for a submarine-launched ballistic test before his flight back home from a visit to Canada. 

US Vice President Kamala Harris is expected to visit South Korea next week where the threat of North Korea will be a key topic of discussion

South Korea’s military detected preparations this week in Sinpo, South Hamgyong Province, North Korea, Yonhap reported, citing an unnamed military source. 

This is in line with a U.S.-based think tank’s report this week, which cited commercial satellite imagery.

On Saturday in a statement from the Presidential Office, South Korea’s President Yoon Suk-yeol said he was aware of the movements regarding potential North Korean provocations, including the possibility of submarine-launched ballistic missiles. 

Since the beginning of 2022, North Korea has dialed up its testing activities to a record pace – testing more than 30 ballistic weapons, including its first intercontinental ballistic missiles since 2017

President Suk-yeol is aware of signs and movements suggesting North Korean provocations, including SLBMs, the presidential office said in a statement on Saturday.

The President, who took office in May, has vowed to beef up joint military exercises with the United States after years of failed diplomacy with North Korea under his predecessor. 

U.S. Vice President Harris is set to visit the region next week and meet with leaders of Japan and South Korea. 

It follows visit by President Joe Biden in May, and US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last month. 

On Friday, a senior administration official for the US government said that a nuclear test or another provocation was possible during the Vice President’s trip.

The spokesperson added that they had no predictions or announcements to make. 

On Wednesday, 38North, a North Korea-focused website, said its analysis of commercial satellite imagery shows multiple barges and other vessels gathered at the eastern port of Sinpo, where North Korea has a major shipyard building submarines. 

The report said the North was possibly preparing to launch a new submarine capable of firing ballistic missiles.

North Korea has been pushing hard to acquire an ability to fire nuclear-armed missiles from submarines, which it sees as a key piece in building a nuclear arsenal.

This would pose a viable threat to its neighbors and event the United States. 

Such weapons in theory would bolster North Korea’s deterrent by ensuring retaliation after absorbing a nuclear attack on land. 

Ballistic missile submarines would also add a new maritime threat to the North’s growing collection of solid-fuel weapons fired from land vehicles, which are being developed with an apparent aim to overwhelm missile defense systems in South Korea and Japan.

Experts, however, have said that the heavily sanctioned nation would need considerably more time, resources and major technological improvements to build at least several submarines that could travel quietly in seas and reliably execute strikes.

South Korea’s military in March detected the North flight-testing a ballistic missile from a submarine in March that flew 600 kilometers before landing in waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.

The March launch was North Korea’s first testing of a submarine-launched ballistic missile system since October of last year, when it fired a new short-range missile from the 8.24 Yongung – its only known submarine capable of launching a missile. The October underwater launch was the North’s first in two years.

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