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North Korea fires short-range missile eastward into sea, South Korean military says

South Korea’s military said North Korea fired an “unidentified projectile” off its east coast on Sept. 28. (Video: Reuters)

TOKYO — North Korea fired a short-range missile eastward into the sea Tuesday, according to South Korean military officials, marking the fourth test by North Korea this month, even as leaders in Pyongyang showed signs that they may be willing to resume negotiations with Seoul.

The missile was fired from an inland area toward the east around 6:40 a.m. local time, the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in ordered a comprehensive analysis of North Korea’s latest statements and missile launches in response to Tuesday’s launch, the presidential Blue House said in a statement. In an emergency meeting, the standing committee of South Korea’s National Security Council said it regretted North Korea’s latest missile launch, which officials said came “at a time when political stability on the Korean Peninsula was very critical.”

In recent days, North Korean officials had complained of “double standards” and “hostile policy” from the South, amid Seoul’s development of a submarine-launched ballistic missile and the latest round of joint U.S.-South Korea military drills.

The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said that the test did not pose an immediate threat to the United States or its allies, though it underscored the destabilizing impact of North Korea’s weapons program.

Even as Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, blamed the South for recent heightened tensions, she spoke positively about the prospects of reengaging in inter-Korean talks.

“I felt that the atmosphere of the South Korean public desiring to recover the inter-Korean relations from a deadlock and achieve peaceful stability as soon as possible is irresistibly strong,” she said in a Sept. 25 statement.

Dueling ballistic missile tests on Korean Peninsula signal rising tensions

Earlier this month, North Korea said it successfully test-fired a new long-range cruise missile on Sept. 11 and 12. On Sept. 15, Pyongyang launched two short-range ballistic missiles that landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone, probably in violation of the U.N. Security Council resolutions.

The recent tests illustrate North Korean efforts to enhance and diversify its missile forces, weapons experts said, in an attempt to obtain weapons that can better evade the defenses of the United States and its allies, or survive a first-strike from the regime’s adversaries.

The September tests “are consistent with what we would expect for a maturing nuclear power seeking survivability and penetrability,” said Vipin Narang, a nuclear security expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Pyongyang has been trying to improve its submarine-launched missile program, which could increase North Korea’s ability to conduct surprise attacks.

The flurry of weapons activity also comes amid stalled nuclear talks with Washington. North Korea has rebuffed attempts by the Biden administration to communicate, instead demanding full sanctions relief.

Tuesday’s launch took place as North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations, Kim Song, addressed the U.N. General Assembly in New York and called for an end to the “U.S. hostile policy” toward his country.

In his statement at the United Nations, Kim denounced recent U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises and called on the Biden administration to “remove the double standards towards the DPRK,” using the acronym for the formal name of his country, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“The successive U.S. administrations have repeatedly expressed their intentions, both in verbal and written forms, that they had no hostile intent towards the DPRK, advocating dialogue with us. But as can be seen in reality, all of those were nothing more than flowery words to cover up their hostile policy,” Kim said.

“The current U.S. administration should prove its policy stand that ‘they have no hostile intent towards the DPRK’ by practical actions instead of words,” he added.

Jeong reported from Seoul.

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