On Sep 27, North Korea fired a suspected ballistic missile into the sea early Tuesday, Seoul and Tokyo officials said. It’s the latest in a series of weapons tests by Pyongyang that raised questions about the sincerity of its recent offer for talks with South Korea, according to the Associated Press.

Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said “an unidentified projectile” fired from an inland location flew toward North Korea’s eastern sea Tuesday morning. It said South Korean and U.S. intelligence authorities were analyzing details of the launch.

Possible ballistic missile

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said North Korea fired “what could be a ballistic missile” and his government stepped up vigilance and surveillance as it analyzed details of the launch.

Tests of ballistic and cruise missiles earlier this month were North Korea’s first such launches in six months and displayed its ability to attack targets in South Korea and Japan, both key U.S. allies where a total of 80,000 American troops are stationed.

But last Friday and Saturday, Kim Yo Jong, the influential sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, reached out to Seoul, saying her country was open to resuming talks and reconciliatory steps if conditions are met. Some experts said North Korea wants South Korea to work to win it relief from U.S.-led sanctions.

South Korea has called her statement “meaningful” but urged North Korea to restore communication channels before any talks between the rivals can be arranged.

The communication lines have remained largely dormant for about 15 months, so restoring them and accepting Seoul’s calls on them could be a yardstick to asses how serious the North is about its offer for conditional talks.

While North Korea has tested short-range weapons and vowed to continue building its nuclear arsenal, Kim Jong Un has maintained a moratorium on testing longer-range weapons capable of reaching the American homeland, an indication he wants to keep the chances for future diplomacy with the U.S. alive.


Sep 15: North Korea fires 2 ballistic missiles into eastern waters

On Sep 15, North Korea launched two ballistic missiles toward the sea in defiance of United Nations resolutions, the second in a few days. Experts say that North Korea is pressing ahead with its arms buildup plans while nuclear diplomacy with the United States remains stalled, the Associated Press reported..

According to officials in Seoul and Tokyo, the missiles were launched from central North Korea and landed in the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan. The South Korean military stated that South Korean and US intelligence officials are investigating further details about the launches.

“The firings threaten the peace and safety of Japan and the region and are absolutely outrageous,” Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said. “The government of Japan is determined to further step up our vigilance and surveillance to be prepared for any contingencies.”

Japan’s coast guard said no ships or aircraft reported damage from the missiles.

The launches were a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions prohibiting North Korea from engaging in ballistic missile activities. However, when North Korea launches short-range missiles, such as the ones launched Wednesday, the United Nations Security Council usually does not impose new sanctions.

Experts: North Korea bolters its weapons

Many experts say the recent tests suggested North Korea is pushing to bolster its weapons arsenal while applying pressure on President Joe Biden’s administration amid a deadlock in nuclear diplomacy between Pyongyang and Washington.

“North Korea is implementing a schedule of missile development that was planned before Biden came to office. That schedule can be adjusted for political reasons but is primarily driven by security strategy and technical factors,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.

Wednesday’s launches came as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was in Seoul for meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and other senior officials to discuss the stalled nuclear negotiations with the North.

It’s unusual for North Korea to make provocative launches when China, its last major ally and biggest aid provider, is engaged in a major diplomatic event.

Sep 12: North Korea fires long-range cruise missile tests

North Korea conducted successful long-range cruise missile tests over the weekend, according to its state media, KCNA, amid a protracted standoff with the US over denuclearisation.

During the Saturday and Sunday tests, the missiles flew 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) before hitting their targets and falling into the country’s territorial waters, according to KCNA.

The launched long-range cruise missiles traveled for 7,580 seconds along oval and pattern-8 flight orbits in the air above the territorial land and waters of the DPRK, the report said.

According to KCNA, the development of the missiles provides “strategic significance of having another effective deterrence means for more reliably guaranteeing the security of our state and strongly containing the military maneuvers of the hostile forces.”

The reclusive North has long accused the US and South Korea of having a “hostile policy” toward Pyongyang.

The development of the long-range cruise missile “has been pushed forward according to the scientific and reliable weapon system development process for the past two years” and detailed tests of missile parts, scores of engine ground thrust tests, various flight tests, control and guidance tests, warhead power tests, etc. were conducted with success, according to the report.

“In all, the efficiency and practicality of the weapon system operation was confirmed to be excellent,” the KCNA said.

Pak Jong Chon, member of the Presidium of the Political Bureau and secretary of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, watched the test-launches with some leading officials and scientists in the field of the national defence science, it added.

Talks aimed at dismantling the North’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs in exchange for sanctions relief from the US have been stalled since 2019.