North Korea fires ballistic missile towards sea off east coast of Korean peninsula

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (left) witnessing the launch of a Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile, on March 16, 2023. AFP

SEOUL – North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile towards the sea off the east coast of the Korean peninsula on Sunday, in the latest of a series of tests carried out by the nuclear-armed state since the start of this year.

The missile, launched from the Dongchang-ri site on the west coast around 11.05am, flew some 800km before hitting a target, according to a South Korean military statement. Japan’s Defence Ministry said the missile flew as high as 50km.

Soon after the launch, South Korea’s Ministry of National Defence said the United States deployed a B-1B strategic bomber to a joint air drill, which Seoul and Washington say they are holding to strengthen extended deterrence.

The deployment of the bomber was planned in advance and unrelated to the latest North Korean launch, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported, citing the military.

Japan and the US also conducted joint air and sea military exercises over the sea between the Korean peninsula and Japan for a third straight day on Sunday, Japanese media reported. 

Seoul has condemned North Korea’s ballistic missile launches as a “clear violation” of a United Nations Security Council resolution. 

In a statement on Sunday, Group of Seven foreign ministers said they “deeply regret” inaction by the UN Security Council against the North caused by some members’ “obstruction”. 

No country was named, but China and Russia have blocked attempts at the UN to respond to North Korea’s series of missile tests. 

The launches have prompted criticism from Tokyo and Washington, as well as from Seoul.  

“North Korea’s behaviour threatens international peace and security, and is unacceptable,” Japan’s State Minister of Defence Toshiro Ino told a news conference, adding that Japan had protested strongly via North Korea’s embassy in Beijing.

The US Indo-Pacific Command said that Sunday’s launch does not pose an immediate threat to US personnel or its allies. But the recent missile launches highlight the destabilising impact of Pyongyang’s unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programmes, it said in a statement.

The North last Thursday fired a suspected intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) into the sea between the Korean peninsula and Japan, hours before South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol flew to Tokyo for a summit that discussed ways to counter the nuclear-armed North.

Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) condemned North Korea’s latest missile tests. “Such tests are dangerous and clearly a violation of the UN Security Council Resolutions, and Singapore therefore strongly opposes and condemns them,” said an MFA spokesman.

“We urge the DPRK to not disregard the grave concerns of the international community, and to cease all provocations and abide by its international obligations and commitments. Such provocative actions will jeopardise the prospects for lasting peace on the Korean peninsula.”

DPRK, or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, is the official name of North Korea.

Pyongyang said that last Thursday’s ICBM launch was a warning against the US-South Korea military drills, state media KCNA reported.

South Korean and American forces kicked off the 11-day joint military drills, dubbed “Freedom Shield 23” a week ago, on a scale not seen since 2017.

North Korea also criticised the US and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, KCNA reported later in the day, for bringing up its human rights abuses at a recent informal meeting of the UN Security Council, describing the move as a “serious challenge” to its sovereignty. 

“The US launched a ‘human rights’ campaign against the DPRK in the UN arena while staging the aggressive joint military exercise, which poses a grave threat to our national security,” North Korea’s Permanent Mission to the UN was quoted as saying by state media. REUTERS

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