North Korea launches missile 'from submarine' towards Japan days before nuclear talks with US
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attended the testing of a 'super-large multiple rocket launcher' last month CREDIT: AFP
Nicola Smith Our Foreign Staff
2 OCTOBER 2019 • 2:51AM
North Korea on Wednesday fired a projectile toward its eastern sea, possibly from a submarine, South Korea's military said, in an apparent display of its expanding military capabilities ahead of planned nuclear negotiations with the United States this weekend.
A few hours after the launch, South Korea’s National Security Council expressed “strong concern” that North Korea may have tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).
In connection with North Korea's firing of a projectile earlier in the day, the NSC is placing "weight on the possibility" that it was a SLBM test, the presidential office said, according to Yonhap.
Seoul said it was likely a Pukguksong-class weapon, as the North’s earlier submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) were known, that is under development.
A preliminary assessment by the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff found that the missile flew 450km and reached a height of 910 km, which, analysts pointed out, is the longest range test since 2017.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga initially said the North fired two ballistic missiles from the country's east coast, and one of them appeared to have landed inside Japan's exclusive economic zone off northwestern coast.
This early assessment was later revised by the defence missile from two missiles down to one. There were no reports of damage to Japanese vessels or aircraft travelling in the area.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe strongly condemned the launch and said it was a violation of United Nations resolutions.
The launches, which were the North's ninth round of weapons tests since late July, came hours after a senior North Korean diplomat on Tuesday evening announced that North Korea and the United States have agreed to resume working-level nuclear negotiations this weekend.
After supervising a testing firing of what the North described as a "newly developed super-large multiple rocket launcher" last month, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was quoted by state media as saying that the system would require a "running fire test" to complete its development.
North Korea could also be demonstrating its displeasure over South Korea displaying some of its newly purchased US-made F-35 stealth fighter jets for the first time during its Armed Forces Day ceremony on Tuesday. The North has sharply reacted to the F-35 purchases, calling them a grave provocation that violate recent inter-Korean agreements aimed at lowering military tensions.
Ankit Panda, an adjunct senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, suggested that additional factors may have prompted the launch, including an attempt at gaining leverage before this weekend’s talks, and a show of force against Japan’s new Aegis Ashore missile defence system.
“On September 23, 24, and 28, North Korean media featured articles slamming #Japan over Aegis Ashore. That’s part of the context here too,” he tweeted.
“Japanese MoD also made an announcement on Aegis Ashore deployment plans last week. Between the Moon F-35A inspection and this, seems like Kim has enough in-theater to merit signaling-by-missile again.”
Nuclear negotiations have been at a standstill for months following a February summit between Kim and President Donald Trump in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Those talks broke down after the US rejected North Korean demands for broad sanctions relief in exchange for partially surrendering its nuclear capabilities.
North Korea followed the summit with belligerent rhetoric and conducted a slew of short-range weapons tests in recent weeks that were widely seen as an attempt to gain leverage ahead of a possible resumption of negotiations.
In a statement released through state media, Choe Son Hui, North Korea's first vice minister of foreign affairs, said the two nations will have preliminary contact on Friday before holding working-level talks on Saturday. She expressed optimism over the outcome of the meeting but did not say where it would take place.
US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un take a walk after their first meeting at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi hotel in Hanoi CREDIT: AP
"It is my expectation that the working-level negotiations would accelerate the positive development of the DPRK-U.S. relations," Choe said in the statement, using an abbreviation for North Korea's formal name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
The US confirmed the talks.
"I can confirm that US and DPRK officials plan to meet within the next week. I do not have further details to share on the meeting," said State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus, who is travelling with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Rome.
Choe's announcement came after North Korea praised Mr Trump last month for suggesting that Washington may pursue an unspecified "new method" in nuclear negotiations with the North. North Korea also has welcomed Mr Trump's decision to fire hawkish former National Security Adviser John Bolton, who advocated a "Libya model" of unilateral denuclearisation as a template for North Korea.
The 2004 disarmament of Libya is seen by North Korea as a deeply provocative comparison because Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was killed following US-supported military action in his country seven years after giving up a rudimentary nuclear programme that was far less advanced than North Korea's.
The office of South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who lobbied hard to set up the first summit between Kim and Mr Trump last year in Singapore, welcomed Choe's announcement and expressed hope that the resumed talks would result in "substantial progress" in denuclearisation and stabilisation of peace.
That could be a tall order. In the high-stakes diplomacy between Mr Trump and Kim, which has been driven chiefly by the personalities of the leaders rather than an established diplomatic process, working-level meetings have been useful for fleshing out the logistics of summits but unproductive in hammering out the details of a nuclear deal that has eluded the countries for decades.
The stalemate of past months has revealed fundamental differences between the two sides. North Korea says it will never unilaterally surrender its nuclear weapons and missiles and insists that US-led sanctions against it should be lifted first before any progress in negotiations.
The Trump administration has vowed to maintain robust economic pressure until North Korea takes real steps toward fully and verifiably relinquishing its nuclear programme.
There are doubts about whether Kim would ever voluntarily deal away an arsenal that he may see as his strongest guarantee of survival.
After their Singapore summit in June 2018, Mr Trump and Kim issued a vague statement calling for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula without describing how or when it would occur.
The lack of substance and fruitless working-level talks set up the failure in Hanoi, which the Americans blamed on what they said were excessive North Korean demands for sanctions relief in exchange for dismantling an aging nuclear facility in Yongbyon. Mr Trump and Kim met for the third time at the inter-Korean border on June 30 and agreed that working-level talks between the countries should resume.
[기사: The Telegraph]