(ATTN: UPDATES with S. Korea’s response in paras 10-11)
By Song Sang-ho
SEOUL, Jan. 11 (Yonhap) — North Korea fired a suspected ballistic missile toward the East Sea on Tuesday, South Korea’s military said, less than a week after it launched what it claimed to be a hypersonic missile.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said it detected the launch from an inland area at 7:27 a.m. It did not elaborate further.
“For additional information, the intelligence authorities of South Korea and the United States are in the process of conducting a detailed analysis,” the JCS said in a text message sent to reporters.
The South Korean military in cooperation with the U.S. is closely monitoring North Korean military movements and maintaining a firm readiness posture, the JCS added.
The North is thought to have fired the latest missile from its northern province of Jagang bordering China, an informed source said.
Jagang Province is where the North tested its self-proclaimed hypersonic missile on Wednesday last week and another such advanced missile in September last year.
Seoul officials have dismissed the North’s hypersonic missile claims as “exaggerated,” saying it has yet to secure technologies for the high-tech flight vehicle.
The latest launch came as the U.N. Security Council convened a closed-door session on Pyongyang’s launch of the missile last week.
Shortly before the session, the U.S. and five other countries issued a joint statement calling on the North to refrain from “destabilizing” actions, abandon its ballistic missile programs and engage in “meaningful” dialogue toward denuclearization.
South Korea, meanwhile, urged the North to refrain from “worrisome” acts and return to dialogue at an early date.
Commenting on the six countries’ joint statement about last week’s North Korean missile launch, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it shares their concerns and stressed the importance of dialogue.
Pyongyang’s latest saber-rattling came as the North unveiled its ambitious push to develop an array of new, formidable weapons during the eighth congress of the ruling Workers’ Party a year ago.
“(The latest launches) are an expression of the North’s resolve to forge ahead with the missile activities in line with an institutionalized defense plan irrespective of the external environment,” Park Won-gon, a professor of North Korea studies at Ewha Womans University, said.
The North’s missile launch handed yet another dispiriting setback to the South’s steadfast drive to resume nuclear diplomacy with the recalcitrant regime.
Nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang have been stalled since the no-deal Hanoi summit between the two countries in February 2019.