North Korea Launches 2 Ballistic Missiles, South Korea Says

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles off its east coast on Thursday in its sixth missile test this month, South Korea’s military said.

North Korea has started the year with a series of missile tests, raising tensions at a sensitive time: China is preparing to host the Winter Olympics in Beijing next month, and South Korea is preparing for his presidential election on March 9.

The latest launch came two days after North Korea fired what South Korean defense officials said were two cruise missiles.

The South Korean military said its analysts are studying the trajectory of the last launch and other flight data to help determine the types of missiles launched.

The latest wave of missile tests suggests that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is both continuing his program to modernize his country’s missile forces and trying to rouse the Biden administration from its diplomatic slumber and force Washington to engage with North Korea on Mr. Kim’s terms.

In the first two weapons tests this month, conducted on January 5 and 11, North Korea launched what it called hypersonic ballistic missiles with detachable hover warheads, making them more difficult to intercept because they weren’t just designed to fly. extremely fast but also to change course in flight.

Repeated UN Security Council resolutions prohibit North Korea from developing or testing ballistic missile technology or technology used to manufacture and deliver nuclear weapons. The North insists it is exercising “its right to self-defense” and that missile testing is “part of its effort to modernize its national defense capability”.

In 2017, North Korea launched three intercontinental ballistic missiles and claimed it was capable of targeting the continental United States with nuclear warheads. Mr. Kim then began diplomatic talks with President Donald J. Trump.

After their three meetings with no agreement ended in 2019 on how to roll back the nuclear weapons program or when the United States would lift sanctions against the country, the North returned to testing mainly ballistic missiles at short range.​

In late 2019, Mr Kim warned that he no longer felt bound by his self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile testing. At a Politburo meeting last week, he again suggested his government could resume testing of long-range missiles and nuclear devices.

The Biden administration has so far taken no real steps to lure Mr Kim, other than offering talks “without preconditions”, a lukewarm plea that North Korea has rebuffed.

Amid the latest round of missile tests, Washington again urged North Korea to talks.

“We made that very clear in Pyongyang,” Mark Lambert, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for Japan and Korea, said Wednesday. “We will go anywhere. We will talk about everything. We have no reservations. »

“We need to have a serious discussion about denuclearizing North Korea, and if North Korea is willing to do that, all sorts of promising things can happen,” he said.

North Korea’s latest launch came as its internet service appeared to have been hit by a second wave of outages in as many weeks, likely caused by a so-called distributed denial-of-service cyberattack.

In North Korea, only a small elite group is allowed access to the global Internet. His websites, all state-controlled, spread propaganda for Mr. Kim’s government and report on developments, such as his weapons tests, that he wants the world and the North Korean people to know about.