North Korea test-fires anti-aircraft missile: State media

A television news broadcast showing file footage of a North Korean missile test, at a railway station in Seoul, on Sept 28, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (AFP) - North Korea has test-fired a "newly developed" anti-aircraft missile, the latest in a string of recent weapons test launches, state media said on Friday (Oct 1).

The anti-aircraft missile had a "remarkable combat performance" and included twin rudder controls and other new technologies, the official Korean Central News Agency said.

A picture in the official Rodong Sinmun newspaper showed the missile ascending at an angle into the sky from a launch vehicle on Thursday.

The test follows a series of weapons launches, including one this week that the nuclear-armed nation claims was a hypersonic gliding missile, a potential game changer as it can fly five times the speed of sound.

The tests have sparked international consternation, with the United States, Britain and France calling a United Nations Security Council meeting on North Korea set to take place on Friday.

It was originally due on Thursday but was delayed by Russia and China, who asked for more time to study the situation, a diplomatic source said.

Beijing is Pyongyang's key ally and in normal times its biggest provider of trade and aid, although the North has since early last year been under a self-imposed blockade after it shut its borders to defend itself against the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier this month, Pyongyang announced it had successfully fired a long-range cruise missile, after holding a scaled-down military parade.

KCNA also reported this week that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un decried Washington's repeated offers of talks without preconditions as a "petty trick" in a speech to the country's rubber stamp Parliament, accusing the new administration of continuing the "hostile policy" of its predecessors.

South Korea's defence ministry told Agence France-Presse (AFP) it was unable to immediately confirm the latest launch.

Anti-aircraft missiles are much smaller than the ballistic missiles the North is banned from developing under UN Security Council resolutions, and harder to detect from afar.

Pyongyang is under multiple international sanctions over its weapons programmes, which have made rapid progress under Mr Kim, including missiles capable of reaching the whole of the US mainland and by far its most powerful nuclear test to date.

North Korea has not shown any willingness to give up its arsenal, which it says it needs to defend itself against an invasion by the US, ally to neighbouring South Korea.

The North has a long history of using weapons tests to ramp up tensions, in a carefully calibrated process to try to forward its objectives.

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With its latest actions, Pyongyang was looking to "highlight their presence on the world stage and their military capabilities", defector-turned-researcher Ahn Chan-il told AFP.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in recently reiterated his calls for a formal declaration that the Korean War is over - hostilities ceased in 1953 with an armistice rather than a peace treaty.

Mr Ahn said: "They are buying time this way and trying to leverage as much as they can from Seoul's proposal to declare the official end of the Korean War, as well as Washington's offer to talk without any preconditions."

The coronavirus blockade and other factors have made the North's domestic situation "quite serious", he added, "and it is believed that many North Koreans are agitated. It looks like missile launches are also intended to soothe them".

Communication lines

Talks between Pyongyang and Washington have been effectively at a standstill since the collapse of a 2019 Hanoi summit between Mr Kim and then President Donald Trump over sanctions relief and what North Korea would be willing to give up in return.

Washington and Seoul are security allies, and the US stations around 28,500 troops in the South to protect it from its neighbour.

Last month, the two held joint military drills that always infuriate Pyongyang.

Under President Joe Biden, the US has repeatedly declared its willingness to meet North Korean representatives anywhere, at any time, without preconditions, while saying it will seek denuclearisation.

But in his speech to the Supreme People's Assembly legislature, Mr Kim condemned the offers as "no more than a petty trick for deceiving the international community and hiding its hostile acts", according to KCNA.

The new administration was pursuing the same "military threats" and "hostile policy" as the past, but in "more cunning ways and methods", he said.

Nonetheless, he expressed a willingness to restore North-South communication lines early this month.

On Thursday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said North Korea was increasing "instability and insecurity" after the recent weapons tests.

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