North Korea suspected of launching at least two ballistic missiles

Launch would represent a new challenge to Biden’s efforts to engage with Pyongyang

A  2017 picture released by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency  shows  ballistic missiles being displayed through Kim Il-Sung square during a military parade in Pyongyang, North Korea. Photograph:   AFP/KCNA VIA KNS/STR/Getty Images

A 2017 picture released by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency shows ballistic missiles being displayed through Kim Il-Sung square during a military parade in Pyongyang, North Korea. Photograph: AFP/KCNA VIA KNS/STR/Getty Images

 

North Korea launched at least two projectiles suspected to be ballistic missiles on Thursday, officials in South Korea, Japan, and the United States said, the first such test reported since US president Joe Biden took office in January.

North Korea’s ballistic missiles are banned under United Nations Security Council resolutions, and if the launch is confirmed it would represent a new challenge to Biden’s efforts to engage with Pyongyang, which have so far been rebuffed.

South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff reported at least two “unidentified projectiles” were fired into the sea from North Korea’s South Hamgyong Province on the east coast.

South Korean and US intelligence authorities were analysing the data of the launch for additional information, the JCS said in a statement.

US officials confirmed to Reuters that North Korea carried out a new projectile launch, without offering details on the number or kind of projectile detected.

They may have been ballistic missiles, a spokesman for Japan’s defence ministry said. “It has not fallen within Japanese territory and is not believed to have come down within Japan’s exclusive economic zone,” he said.

Warned ships

Earlier the Japanese coast guard warned ships against coming close to any fallen objects and instead asked them to provide information to the coast guard.

Over the weekend North Korea fired two short-range cruise missiles, US and South Korean officials said, but Biden played down those tests as “business as usual” and officials in Washington said they were still open to dialogue with Pyongyang.

Biden’s diplomatic overtures to North Korea have gone unanswered, and Pyongyang said it would not engage until Washington drops hostile policies, including carrying out military drills with South Korea.

The administration’s North Korea policy review is in its “final stages” and would host the national security advisers of allies Japan and South Korea next week to discuss that, senior US officials said on Wednesday.

– Reuters