North Korea launches ballistic missile amid escalating hostilities


North Korea fired a ballistic missile toward its eastern waters on Wednesday, South Korean and Japanese officials said, days after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed to boost his nuclear arsenal “as quickly as possible” and threatened to use them against rivals.

The launch, the 14th round of weapons launches by North Korea this year, came six days before the shooting The new conservative South Korean president He holds the office for one five-year term.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the missile was launched from the northern capital region and headed toward waters off the east coast. She said the South Korean military is monitoring possible additional weapons launches by North Korea.

Japan’s Defense Ministry said North Korea had launched a possible ballistic missile, without providing further details. The Japan Coast Guard has urged ships traveling off the coast of Japan to keep away from any potential shrapnel.

The Japanese government set up an emergency task force to deal with the missile launch, and noted that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who is currently in Rome for talks with Italian officials, instructed officials to do their best for emergencies and also to protect people’s safety. As ships and planes around Japan.

North Korea watchers say Unusually fast pace in weapon testing And this year it asserts its dual goal of pushing its missile programs forward and putting pressure on Washington to deepen the freeze on nuclear negotiations. They say Kim ultimately aims to use his expanded arsenal to win international recognition of North Korea as a nuclear state that he believes will help compel the United States to ease international economic sanctions on North Korea.

One of the North Korean missiles recently tested was an ICBM capable of reaching the entire American homeland. The launch of this missile broke Kim’s self-imposed decision in 2018 to test large-scale weapons.

There are indications that North Korea is also preparing for a nuclear test at the remote northeastern test facility. If the atomic bomb test conducted by North Korea were to be conducted, it would be the seventh of its kind and the first since 2017.

Last week, Kim Jong Un displayed his most powerful nuclear-capable missiles that targeted both the United States and its allies during a massive military parade in the capital, Pyongyang. During a speech at the military parade, Kim said he would develop his arsenal “as quickly as possible” and warned that North Korea will use its nuclear weapons proactively If its national interests are threatened.

North Korea has previously issued harsh rhetoric threatening to attack its rivals with its nuclear weapons. But the fact that Kim made the threat himself and in such a detailed manner has caused security tensions among some South Koreans. Given North Korea’s recent tests of short-range nuclear-capable missiles, some experts speculate that North Korea’s potential escalatory nuclear doctrine will allow it to launch preemptive nuclear strikes on South Korea in some cases.

Wednesday’s launch came ahead of the May 10 inauguration of South Korean President-elect Yoon Seok-yeol, who vowed to boost Seoul’s missile capability and solidify his military alliance with Washington to better deal with North Korea’s growing nuclear threats.

North Korea has a history of fomenting hostilities through weapons tests when Seoul and Washington inaugurated two new governments in an apparent attempt to bolster its influence in future negotiations.

Some experts say the Biden administration’s negative handling of North Korea is as focused on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine Intense rivalry with China gives North Korea more room to expand its military capabilities.

The Biden administration’s actions on North Korea have so far been limited to largely symbolic sanctions and offers of open talks. North Korea has rejected the administration’s offer of talks, saying it must first abandon its “hostile policy,” an apparent reference to US-led international sanctions and joint military exercises between the US and South Korea.

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Associated Press writer Marie Yamaguchi contributed to this report from Tokyo.

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