POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

North Korea fires suspected long-range ballistic missile, South says

Jul 11, 2023, 9:00 PM

South Korea’s military said North Korea fired a “space projectile” triggering emergency alert...

South Korea’s military said North Korea fired a “space projectile” triggering emergency alerts in Seoul and Japan, weeks after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, pictured here in Pyongyang, on March 1, ordered officials to prepare to launch the country’s first military reconnaissance satellite. Photo credit: KCNA/Reuters

Seoul, South Korea (CNN) — North Korea has fired what appears to be long-range ballistic missile from the Pyongyang area to waters off its east coast, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Wednesday.

Japan’s Coast Guard said the missile was launched at 9:59 a.m. local time and was expected to fall into the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea, around 11:13 a.m. It warned ships in the expected fall area to exercise caution and look out for further information.

The launch comes after Pyongyang earlier this week threatened to shoot down US military reconnaissance planes that fly over nearby waters in the East Sea.

Kim Yo Jong, a senior North Korean official and sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, accused a US spy plane of entering the North’s exclusive economic zone at least eight times on Monday, according to a statement Tuesday from North Korea’s state news agency KCNA.

“In case of repeated illegal intrusion, the US forces will experience a very critical flight,” Kim warned in the statement.

The missile launch and fiery rhetoric, while not unusual for Pyongyang, come amid heightened tensions as Washington and Seoul ramp up their defense cooperation and the leaders of South Korea, Japan and the United States are in Lithuania for a NATO summit, where North Korea was on the agenda.

A communique from the NATO meeting on Tuesday urged North Korea to abandoned its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs, which are in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions banning them.

“We call on (North Korea) to accept the repeated offers of dialogue put forward by all parties concerned, including Japan, the United States, and the Republic of Korea,” the communique said.

But North Korea has shown no signs that it is willing to engage in negotiations with Washington or Seoul.

“Kim Yo Jong’s bellicose statement against US surveillance aircraft is part of a North Korean pattern of inflating external threats to rally domestic support and justify weapons tests,” said Leif-Eric Easley, associate professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.

“Pyongyang also times its shows of force to disrupt what it perceives as diplomatic coordination against it, in this case, South Korea and Japan’s leaders meeting during the NATO summit,” Easley said.

Last month, tens of thousands of North Koreans marched in anti-US rallies in Pyongyang, marking the 73rd anniversary of the start of the Korean War. The participants denounced the US as “Destroyer of peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula” and warned of nuclear war, according to KCNA.

Meanwhile, South Korea, the United States and Japan have been holding joint and trilateral military exercises aimed at deterring any North Korea military threat.

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North Korea fires suspected long-range ballistic missile, South says