North Korea fires suspected ballistic missile

Seoul (Jiji Press) — North Korea on Sunday launched a projectile presumed to be a ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan from an area around Pyongyang Sunan International Airport in the capital, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.

It was the eighth time this year for North Korea to launch a missile.

Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said that the projectile traveled about 300 kilometers while reaching a maximum altitude of some 600 kilometers before falling into waters outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

The launch “can never be tolerated” if it was conducted with an intention to take advantage of the current situation where the international community is busy responding to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Kishi told reporters.

The Japanese government lodged a protest with North Korea against the launch through its Embassy in Beijing.

North Korea launched missiles seven times in January. Most recently, it fired an intermediate-range ballistic missile on Jan. 30.

Noting that North Korea has fired missiles as many as eight times this year and tested new launch methods, Kishi said, “The series of launches, including the latest one, which could further escalating tensions, will jeopardize the peace and safety of the international community.”

Japan will work to thoroughly enhance its defense capabilities by studying all options, such as possessing the so-called enemy base attack capability, he added.

Following the launch on Sunday, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida instructed relevant ministries and agencies to make utmost efforts to collect and analyze information, provide the public with accurate information quickly, confirm the safety of Japanese aircraft and ships, and fully prepare for possible contingencies.

Kishida also discussed necessary measures with Takeo Akiba, secretary-general of the National Security Secretariat, and senior officials of the foreign and defense ministries.

No damage has been confirmed for Japanese aircraft and ships from the latest missile firing by North Korea, according to the Japanese government.

The South Korean presidential office held an emergency meeting of the standing committee of the National Security Council, expressing grave concern and serious regret over the provocative action by the North.

The missile firing was not desirable at a time when the whole world is working to resolve the war in Ukraine, the presidential office said.

A spokesperson at the U.S. Department of State denounced the launch as violating related U.N. Security Council resolutions and urged North Korea to accept dialogue to resolve its nuclear and missile issues.

On Sunday’s launch, some experts said that North Korea may have fired a Pukguksong-2 or other missile on a lofted trajectory.

North Korea refrained from launching a missile during the Beijing Winter Olympics, held Feb. 4-20, apparently in consideration of China, an ally of Pyongyang. Now that the event was over, North Korea resumed its missile activities, informed sources said.

North Korea is set to mark the 110th anniversary of the birth of its late founder, Kim Il Sung, on April 15. Through the latest launch, North Korean may be trying to demonstrate its military capabilities while it faces economic difficulties due to the novel coronavirus crisis and international sanctions, analysts said.

The country is preparing a military parade, according to some sources.

In January, North Korea suggested plans to restart nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests, which are now on hold.