Seoul, South Korea – North Korea fired two ballistic missiles into water off its east coast Wednesday afternoon, two days laterin a resumption of their weapons displays after a six-month rest.
South Korea’s joint chief of staff said the missiles had been launched from central North Korea.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the missiles landed outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone in the waters between northwestern Japan and the Korean Peninsula.
“The fires threaten peace and security in Japan and the region and are outrageous,” Suga said. “The Japanese government is determined to further increase our vigilance and surveillance to be prepared for any events,” he said.
Seoul said South Korean and US intelligence services were analyzing details of the North Korean launches.
The joint leaders’ statement added that South Korea has increased its surveillance of North Korea.
The Japanese Coast Guard said no ships or aircraft reported damage due to the North Korean launches.
North Korea had said on Monday that it tested a newly developed cruise missile twice over the weekend. North Korea’s state media described the missile as a “strategic weapon of great importance”, which meant that they were developed with the intention of arming them with nuclear weapons.
According to North Korean stories, the missile flew about 930 km, a distance that put the whole of Japan and US military installations in Japan within reach.
Many experts say that the weekend tests suggested that North Korea is pushing to strengthen its arsenal in the midst of a stalemate in nuclear diplomacy between Pyongyang and Washington.
Wednesday’s launches came as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was in Seoul for meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and other senior officials to discuss the halted nuclear diplomacy with the North.
It is unusual for North Korea to make provocative launches when China, its last major ally and largest aid supplier, engages in a major diplomatic event.
Mon’s office said Moon told Wang that he appreciated China’s role in the international diplomatic effort to resolve the North Korean nuclear embargo and asked for Beijing’s continued support for such efforts. Wang called for further development in bilateral relations between Beijing and Seoul, but it was not known whether Wang specifically addressed North Korea’s issue.
Moon’s office said the government plans to hold an unplanned National Security Council meeting later Wednesday.
Nuclear power diplomacy between the United States and North Korea has stalled since 2019, when the Americans rejected the Nordic demands for major sanctions easing in exchange for dismantling an aging nuclear facility. The Kim government has so far threatened to build high-tech weapons aimed at the United States and rejected the Biden administration’s openings for dialogue, demanding that Washington abandon its “hostile” policies first.
The Nordic countries’ resumption of test activities is likely to be an attempt to pressure the Biden administration over the diplomatic freeze after Kim failed to use his arsenal of economic benefits during Donald Trump’s presidency.
North Korea ended a year-long break in ballistic tests in March by launching two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea, continuing a tradition of testing new US administrations with weapons demonstrations aimed at measuring Washington’s response and breaking concessions.
North Korea still maintains a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile testing, a sign that it may not want to completely crush nuclear negotiations with the United States.