North Korea launches ballistic missile in 14th test this year

Pyongyang is ratcheting up the diplomatic pressure on its regional neighbours as well as the United States.

What North Korea says is a tactical guided missile soars into the air in clouds of smoke and a trail of fire
South Korea and Japan say the North launched a projectile on Wednesday, marking its 14th launch this year [File: KCNA via Reuters]

North Korea has fired ballistic missile towards its east coast, according to South Korea’s military, about a week after the North said it would develop its nuclear capabilities “at the fastest possible speed”.

Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said it detected the launch at about 12:03pm (03:03 GMT) from the Sunan area of Pyongyang. Japan’s Coast Guard also reported the launch and said it could be a ballistic missile.

The JCS said the missile flew 470 kilometres at a top altitude of 780 km and speed of Mach 11.

The launch is the North’s 14th weapons test this year, and comes less than a week before South Korea’s newly elected President Yoon Suk-yeol, a conservative, is due to be sworn into office. Pyongyang last month tested its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) since 2017, as it ratchets up the diplomatic pressure on its regional neighbours and the United States.

The JCS urged Pyongyang to immediately stop the ballistic missile tests, which it criticised as a “clear” breach of UN Security Council resolutions and a “grave threat” that undermines peace on the Korean Peninsula and beyond.

“Our military is tracking and monitoring related movements to prepare against the possibility of an additional launch, and it is maintaining a full readiness posture,” the JCS said in a text message sent to reporters.

NK News, a media outlet focused on North Korea, said it had obtained photographs showing a plume of white smoke against a blue sky showing a vertical trajectory.

Last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un promised to speed up the development of his country’s nuclear arsenal as he watched a huge military parade to mark the anniversary of the founding of the army.

Denuclearisation talks with the United States remain stalled amid concerns that Pyongyang may soon test a nuclear weapon.

Yoon is expected to take a more hawkish approach to the North than his predecessor Moon Jae-in.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies