Pyongyang and Seoul conduct missile tests

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – North Korea fired two ballistic missiles from its east coast on Wednesday, according to the South Korean military, two days after Pyongyang said it had tested a new missile in its first weapons test in six months.

The two missiles launched from central North Korea flew into the sea east of the Korean Peninsula, according to the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Intelligence authorities in South Korea and the United States were analyzing more details about the incident, according to the statement. South Korea stepped up its vigilance over North Korea.

Seoul indicated a few hours later that it had made its first test with a missile launched from a submarine.

President Moon Jae-in observed the test Wednesday afternoon, according to a statement from his office. The projectile was launched from a 3,000-ton submarine and traveled a programmed distance before hitting its target.

The two missiles launched by North Korea fell outside the Japanese Exclusive Economic Zone, in the waters between Japan and the Korean Peninsula, as confirmed by the Japanese Coast Guard. No damage to ships or planes was reported, according to the Coast Guard.

North Korea said Monday it had done two tests of a newly developed cruise missile over the weekend. North Korean state media described the missile as a “highly relevant strategic weapon”, suggesting that it had been developed with the intention of arming it with nuclear warheads.

According to North Korean reports, the missile traveled about 1,500 kilometers (930 miles), a distance capable of reaching all of Japan and US facilities in the area.

Many experts opine that the test suggests that North Korea seeks to bolster its arsenal amid a stalemate in diplomatic efforts toward a nuclear deal between Pyongyang and Washington.

The launch coincided with a visit to Seoul by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and other dignitaries and address the stalled nuclear diplomatic contacts with Pyongyang.

Talks between the United States and North Korea stalled in 2019, when the Americans rejected North Korea’s demand for major sanctions relief in exchange for dismantling an aging nuclear facility. For now, the Kim administration has rejected calls by the Joe Biden administration for dialogue, and demands that Washington abandon its “hostile” policies first.

The resumption of arms tests in North Korea is likely an attempt to pressure the Biden government, after Kim failed to secure economic concessions during the presidency of Donald Trump.

North Korea launched two long-range ballistic missiles into the sea in March after a year-long hiatus in ballistic tests. The launch continued a tradition of testing new US governments with weapons demonstrations to gauge Washington’s response and seek concessions.

North Korea still maintains a self-imposed moratorium on long-range and nuclear missile tests, an indication that it may not want to completely disrupt nuclear contacts with the United States.

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