SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea on Sunday launched a suspected ballistic missile into the sea, South Korean and Japanese officials said, in an apparent resumption of its weapons tests following the end of the Winter Olympics in China, the North’s last major ally and economic pipeline.
The launch was the eighth of its kind this year. Some experts have said North Korea is trying to perfect its weapons technology and pressure the United States into offering concessions like sanctions relief. They say North Korea also might use the U.S. preoccupation with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a chance to accelerate testing activity to ramp up its pressure campaign on Washington.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the launch had occurred without providing further details. South Korea’s presidential office said it plans to hold an emergency national security council meeting to discuss the North Korean launch.
Japan’s Defense Ministry said North Korea launched a possible ballistic missile.
A maritime safety warning from Japan’s Coast Guard said “an object possibly ballistic missile” was launched from North Korea and that it probably landed in the sea. Vessels in the area were warned to stay away from objects that may have fallen from the sky and to report them to authorities.
“North Korea is not going to do anyone the favor of staying quiet while the world deals with Russia’s aggression against Ukraine,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul. “Pyongyang has an ambitious schedule of military modernization. The Kim regime’s strength and legitimacy have become tied to testing ever better missiles.”
North Korea last month conducted seven rounds of missile tests, a record number of monthly weapons tests since leader Kim Jong Un took power in late 2011. North Korea halted testing activity after the start of the Winter Olympics earlier this month. Some experts had predicted North Korea would resume tests and possibly launch bigger weapons after the Olympics.
Story by Hyung-Jin Kim, The Associated Press. Associated Press writer Mari Yamaguchi contributed to this report from Tokyo.