North Korea fires two ballistic missiles into East Sea, South says
Published6 minutes ago
North Korea missile tests
People watch a TV broadcasting file footage of a news report on North Korea firing what appeared to be a pair of ballistic missiles off its east coast, in Seoul
image captionSouth Korean television broadcast file footage in report about the North's latest test with ballistic missiles
North Korea has fired two ballistic missiles across its east coast, South Korea's military says, its first ballistic missile test in six months.
The tests, a breach of UN resolutions, came as South Korea and China held meetings in an effort to get the North to resume denuclearisation talks.
Just days earlier, the North fired a new long-range cruise missile.
The recent launches show the North has continued to develop its weapons despite a severe economic crisis.
Experts say the country carries out such tests to improve its technology while trying to increase its leverage in negotiations with the US.
The US wants North Korea to give up its nuclear and missile programmes in exchange for sanctions relief, but the North has refused.
Wednesday's short-range missiles flew around 800 km (500 miles) at a maximum altitude of 60km, and were launched from central inland areas of North Korea, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said.
They flew east towards the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea, the JCS added, saying South Korea and the US were conducting analysis to determine which type of missile was used.
The US Indo-Pacific Command said the missiles did not pose an immediate threat to US personnel, territory, or allies, but that they highlighted the "destabilising impact of [North Korea's] illicit weapons programme".
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga called the launch "outrageous", saying it threatened peace and security in the region.
media captionWhy does North Korea keep launching missiles?
Hours later, South Korea announced that President Moon Jae-in attended the test of the country's first submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). It makes the South the seventh country in the world with such technology.
The launch was pre-planned, and was not in reaction to the North's launches. South Korea says the missile is designed to help counter any attack by its northern neighbour.
Earlier, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi held talks with his South Korean counterpart, Chung Eui-yong, in Seoul, and said all parties should work to promote peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.
"Not only North Korea but other countries are carrying out military activity," he said. "All of us should make efforts in a way that helps resume dialogue."
The Academy of National Defense Science conducts long-range cruise missile tests in North Korea, as pictured in this combination of undated photos supplied by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on 13 September 2021
image captionNorth Korea had just days earlier tested a long-range cruise missile
UN resolutions ban North Korea from carrying out tests with ballistic missiles - which can carry either nuclear or conventional warhead - in efforts to curb the country's nuclear programme.
Ballistic missiles are classed according to how far they can travel, the furthest of which being an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
North Korea has in the past tested ICBMs said to be capable of reaching nearly all of western Europe and about half of the US mainland.
Last weekend, Pyongyang said it tested a long-range cruise missile capable of hitting much of Japan, calling it "a strategic weapon of great significance". Experts say it could possibly carry a nuclear warhead.
The UN Security Council does not forbid the test of cruise missiles. But it considers ballistic missiles to be more threatening because they can carry bigger and more powerful payloads, have a much longer range, and can travel faster.
North Korea is facing food shortages, and has spent more than a year in isolation. It cut off most trade with its closest ally China to stop the spread of Covid-19.
"Despite its self-imposed pandemic lockdown, North Korea continues to prioritise military modernisation," said Leif-Eric Easley, international studies professor at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.
Last March, Pyongyang defied sanctions and tested ballistic missiles, which triggered a strong rebuke from the US, Japan and South Korea.
And last month the UN atomic agency said North Korea appeared to have restarted a reactor which could produce plutonium for nuclear weapons, calling it a "deeply troubling" development..