North Korea has confirmed it carried out a test of a new submarine-launched ballistic missile on Wednesday, describing it as a “significant achievement”.
The launch came ahead of the restart of nuclear negotiations between the US and Pyongyang, which are due to get underway on Saturday.
The Korean Central News Agency said the test of the Pukguksong-3 missile in the waters off its east coast was successful and “ushered in a new phase in containing the outside forces’ threat to (North Korea) and further bolsteringits military muscle for self-defence”.
After Wednesday’s launch, the US State Department called on North Korea “to refrain from provocations, abide by their obligations under UN Security Council resolutions, and remain engaged in substantive and sustained negotiations to dotheir part to ensure peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and achieve denuclearisation”.
It is understood North Korea has been willing to offer partial denuclearisation in return for the US lifting crippling sanctions and providing security guarantees.
But on Wednesday morning, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the North appeared to have fired a ballistic missile that had split in two, with one part landing inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) off the northwestern coast.
There were no reports of damage to boats or aircraft in the area.
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It is the first time since November 2017 – when the North’s nuclear and missile launches were particularly provocative – that a weapon has been fired into the EEZ.
South Korea’s military reported the launch of one missile, which it said flew 280 miles.
Image: A photo from North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency of a missile test fire in August
Responding to the launches, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said they violated UN resolutions against North Korea.
“We will continue to cooperate with the U.S. and the international community and do the utmost to maintain and protect the safety of the people as we stay on alert,” he said.
The National Security Council in Seoul also expressed “strong concern” over the test.
The launches are North Korea’s ninth round of weapons tests since late July.
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Kim Dong-yung, an analyst from Seoul’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies and a former military official who participated in inter-Korean military talks, said the test is an attempt to gain leverage before negotiations with the US resume.
The two nations will first make contact on Friday before holding working-level talks on Saturday.
North Korea’s first vice minister of foreign affairs, Choe Son Hui, said in a statement: “It is my expectation that the working-level negotiations would accelerate the positive development of the DPRK-U.S. relations.”
Image: President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un shake hands
However the state has said it will never unilaterally surrender its nuclear weapons and missiles and wants sanctions against it to be lifted before any progress can be made in negotiations.
Choe Son Hui previously warned the talks could be final if they stall once again.
But some positive noises have been made after North Korea praised President Trump for suggesting the US may pursue an unspecified “new method” in the negotiations.
Source : Sky News