by Heung-jin Kim | The Associated Press
Seoul, South Korea — North Korea fired a suspected ballistic missile into the sea on Tuesday, officials in Seoul and Tokyo said, the latest in a series of weapons tests by Pyongyang that showed the integrity of its recent proposal for talks with South Korea. But questioned.
Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that “an unidentified projectile” fired from an inland location in North Korea flew toward the country’s eastern seas on Tuesday morning. It said South Korean and US intelligence officials are analyzing the details of the launch.
Japan’s defense ministry said North Korea fired a possible ballistic missile but gave no further details.
Earlier this month, North Korea tested ballistic and cruise missiles in its first such launch in six months, demonstrating its ability to strike South Korea and Japan, both major US allies where a total of 80,000 US troops are stationed. .
But last Friday and Saturday, Kim Yo Jong, the influential sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, contacted Seoul and said she was ready to resume talks and take reconciliation steps if conditions are met. Some experts said North Korea wants South Korea to play a role in getting relief from US-led sanctions or other concessions. In his second statement on Saturday, Kim Yo Jong called on South Korea to drop “hostile policies” and “double standards of behavior”.
On Sunday, South Korea’s unification ministry called his statement “meaningful” but urged North Korea to restore dormant communication channels before arranging talks between the rivals. North Korea has not responded.
US officials have repeatedly expressed hope of sitting down for talks with North Korea, but have also made it clear that they will continue with sanctions until North Korea takes concrete steps toward denuclearization.
US-led diplomatic efforts aimed at convincing North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for economic and political gains have stalled after two and a half years. One of the main sticking points is the controversy over US-led sanctions imposed on North Korea over its nuclear and missile tests.
Kim Jong Un has said that if the United States does not abandon “hostile policies” on the North, it will strengthen its nuclear arsenal and introduce more sophisticated weapons, an apparent reference to the sanctions. Despite his recent missile tests, Kim still holds off on testing long-range weapons capable of reaching the US homeland, a suggestion he wants to keep alive opportunities for future diplomacy with the US.
North Korea’s fragile economy has recently been hit hard by a combination of the coronavirus pandemic, sanctions and natural disasters. Kim has said his country is facing the “worst ever” crisis.
Associated Press writer Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.