North launches missile as world reacts to last week's
North Korea launched another missile, possibly ballistic, into the East Sea Tuesday morning, the second launch in less than a week.
The South Korean military detected the launch of a projectile from inland North Korea at 7:27 a.m. toward the sea off its east coast, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).
Later that day, the South Korean JCS said that the missile flew over 700 kilometers from Jagang Province, near the border with China, at a top altitude of 60 kilometers and a maximum speed of Mach 10, which is 10 times the speed of sound or around 7,672 miles per hour.
Six days earlier, the North launched a ballistic missile from Jagang towards its east coast, which Pyongyang claimed was hypersonic. It was its first weapons test this year.
The JCS said Tuesday's test was "more advanced than the ballistic missile that North Korea launched on Jan. 5."
Hypersonic missiles reach speeds greater than Mach 5, which is five times the speed of sound. These types of missiles were developed to avoid interception, and only a few countries have them, such as the United States, Russia and China.
North Korea's recent ballistic missile launches "clearly violated" United Nations Security Council resolutions, the JCS said.
UN Security Council resolutions ban North Korea from developing and testing ballistic missiles.
The South Korean military "strongly urged" North Korea to "immediately halt" such launches as they "pose a serious threat not only to the Korean Peninsula but to international peace and security and are not conducive to easing military tensions amid diplomatic efforts to establish peace on the Korean Peninsula."
South Korean and U.S. intelligence authorities were in the process of conducting a detailed analysis of the projectile, according to the JCS.
The JCS added, "Our military is maintaining a full readiness posture while closely monitoring related trends in preparation for additional launches under close South Korea-U.S. cooperation."
It said that the South Korean military "has the ability to detect and intercept this projectile, and we are continuously strengthening our response system."
North Korea's launch came as the New York-based UN Security Council convened a closed-door session Monday to discuss Pyongyang's hypersonic missile launch last Wednesday.
The United States and five other countries issued a joint statement ahead of the meeting condemning last week's missile launch and calling on the 15-member Security Council to stand united against North Korea's "ongoing, destabilizing and unlawful actions."
U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said, "The DPRK's continued pursuit of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and ballistic missile programs is a threat to international peace and security," referring to the acronym for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
The North's missile launches show its "determination to expand its unlawful weapons capabilities" and such "actions increase the risk of miscalculation and escalation and pose a significant threat to regional stability," she added. Thomas-Greenfield noted statements by the North that it is pursuing new technologies, such as hypersonic gliding warheads.
She was joined in the statement by the ambassadors of Albania, Britain, France, Ireland and Japan to the United Nations. Of these countries, Japan is the only one that is not a member of the Security Council.
Thomas-Greenfield called on the North "to refrain from further destabilizing actions, abandon its prohibited WMD and ballistic missile programs, and engage in meaningful dialogue towards our shared goal of complete denuclearization," which she said "is the only way for us to achieve lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula."
She underscored, "Our goal remains the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization [CVID] of the Korean Peninsula."
Thomas-Greenfield added that they are "prepared to engage in and support serious and sustained diplomacy to that end," adding that North Korea "now must choose dialogue and peace over its unlawful and threatening weapons program."
South Korea, which is also not part of the Security Council, did not participate in the statement, taking into consideration various factors such as the "need to maintain momentum for resumption of dialogue and the stable management of the situation on the Korean Peninsula," according to Seoul's Foreign Ministry spokesman Choi Young-sam Tuesday.
South Korea convened a National Security Council (NSC) standing committee meeting Tuesday morning and in a statement expressed "strong regret" for the North's latest missile launches, which came "at a time when political stability is very important."
The remarks went beyond the NSC's statement about the Jan. 5 missile launch, where it only expressed "concern."
The NSC standing committee members discussed countermeasures and also urged North Korea to "respond promptly to calls for the resumption of dialogue and cooperation in response to the expectations of the international community."
After hearing the results of the NSC meeting Tuesday, President Moon Jae-in expressed "concern" about "North Korea's consecutive missile launches ahead of the presidential election" in March, according to Blue House spokesperson Park Kyung-mee.
He ordered ministries to "take necessary measures so that inter-Korean relations do not become tense and the people do not become uneasy."
The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement that the North's latest ballistic missile launch "highlights the destabilizing impact of the DPRK's illicit weapons program," adding its "commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan remains ironclad."
Some experts say North Korea's weapons test could be a refutation of the South Korean Ministry of National Defense's assessment that the Jan. 5 launch was a ballistic missile and not an advanced hypersonic glide weapon.
Last Friday, the South Korean Defense Ministry said the missile launched on Jan. 5 from northern Jagang Province into the East Sea traveled less than 700 kilometers at a top altitude of 50 kilometers, with a maximum speed of Mach 6.
The ministry's assessment differed from the North Korean state media's report last Thursday that its "high-tech" hypersonic missile precisely hit a set target 700 kilometers and had a top altitude of 120 kilometers.
Seoul's Defense Ministry called the North's claim about the missile's capabilities, including its operational range and lateral movement, "exaggerated," adding that according to its assessment, Pyongyang has yet to prove the technologies needed for a hypersonic flight vehicle.
Jagang is also where North Korea launched its Hwasong-8 hypersonic missile last Sept. 27.
North Korea has refrained from launching long-range missiles and nuclear tests since late 2017.
BY SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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