The Korean Peninsula

North, South Korea test missiles amid tensions

Published : September 15, 2021 19:12 IST

North Korea's state media described a test earlier this month as a "strategic weapon of great significance". Photo: Lee Jin-man/AP/picture alliance

Seoul has said it carried out its first underwater-launched missile test after the North fired missiles into the sea.

North Korea on September 15 fired two ballistic missiles into the sea, according to the South Korean military. Hours later, South Korea said President Moon Jae-in observed Seoul's first underwater-launched missile test on the same afternoon.

The South's missile, fired from a 3,000-ton-class submarine, flew a previously set distance before hitting a designated target, the presidential Blue House said. The tests come as China's foreign minister visits Seoul to hold talks about Pyongyang's recent testing of new long-range cruise missiles.

What we know about Pyongyang's launch

The two "unidentified ballistic missiles" were launched from a site in central North Korea, toward the waters of the Korean Peninsula's east coast on the afternoon of September 15, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. "South Korean and US intelligence agencies are conducting detailed analysis," they added, without immediately giving details of the missiles' range. If September 15's test were confirmed as a ballistic missile, it would be Pyongyang's first since March this year and a further violation of U.N. sanctions.

Japan's coast guard said the missiles landed outside Japanese economic waters. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga called the missile launch "outrageous" and condemned it as a threat to peace and security in the region.

China's top diplomat in Seoul

The launch came as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi held talks with his South Korean counterpart over the North's recent missile test and stalled denuclearization negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington. Wang also met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Before the news of the missile launch emerged, Wang expressed hope that all countries would maintain "peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula."

"For example, not only the North, but also other countries are engaging in military activities," he was quoted as saying by Yonhap news agency. "Having said this, we all have to work together toward the resumption of dialogue."

Second launch this week

Pyongyang's launch comes days after the North successfully tested new long-range cruise missiles. North Korea is not banned from developing cruise missiles, which it has tested in the past. According to state-run KCNA, the missiles fired at the weekend flew about 1,500 km (932 miles) — a distance capable of reaching all of Japan and US military installations in the region.

The North ended a yearlong pause of testing ballistic missiles in March this year. The latest tests are seen as an attempt to pressure the United States, under President Joe Biden, amid stalled nuclear talks. Negotiations have been put on ice since the collapse of the 2019 Hanoi summit between the North's leader Kim Jong-un and then U.S. President Donald Trump.

fb, adi/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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