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North Korea starts New Year with apparent ballistic missile launch -Breaking


By Hyonhee Shin & Chang-Ran Kim

SEOUL/TOKYO – North Korea’s suspected ballistic missile fired off the east coast of its country on Wednesday. It was a clear sign that Kim Jong Un has made a New Year promise to bolster military forces to deal with an uncertain international environment.

Japan’s Coast Guard reported it first. However, they did not give any further information.

Fumio Kirishida, Japan’s Prime Minister, stated that North Korea had repeatedly launched missiles since last year. This is extremely regrettable.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff reported also that North Korea, which is nuclear-armed, fired a ballistic missile presumed from an inland position toward the ocean.

The JCS released a statement saying that “Our military maintains readiness posture in preparation of a possible additional launch, while closely monitoring and cooperating with the United States.” Numerous launches have been seen in recent North Korean missile testing.

Resolutions of the United Nations Security Council ban North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile tests and impose sanctions on those who violate these resolutions.

The North Korean leader, Kim, did not mention nuclear weapons or missiles in state media summaries, but he said national defense must be strengthened.

According to South Korean military officials, North Korean troops were conducting winter drills for several weeks.

North Korea is now even more isolated since the COVID-19 pandemic. It has imposed border lockdowns which have reduced trade to a trickle, and prevented any personal diplomatic engagements.

The country has also abided by a self-imposed moratorium for testing large intercontinental missiles (ICBMs), or other nuclear weapons. Before Kim made a diplomatic offer to the United States, and South Korea in 2017, the last nuclear bomb or ICBM tests were conducted. Since then, it has been stalled.

Pyongyang continues to test fire new short-range missiles. One of these was launched from a submerged submarine in October. It argues that it shouldn’t be punished for creating weapons other nations also possess.

“While the readout from North Korea’s recent plenary meetings may have prioritised rural development for the coming year, it doesn’t mean the country will halt its ballistic missile tests,” said Michelle Kae, deputy director of 38 North, a North Korea monitoring programme at Washington’s Stimson Center.


Japan declared that its defense and foreign ministers would meet with American counterparts on Friday, just hours after North Korea’s launch. This was to address security concerns.

On Wednesday’s launch, the White House and Pentagon as well as U.S. State Department didn’t immediately reply to inquiries.

Ned Price, spokesperson for the State Department, reiterated that the United States wants to engage with North Korea at a news conference on Monday. He reiterated that Washington did not have any hostile intentions towards North Korea, and was ready to meet with them without conditions.

Price declined to comment on Kim’s slimmer appearance in a photo published recently in North Korean state media and on speculation about his health, saying “we don’t want to add to that speculation.”

According to NK News (a Seoul-based monitoring website for North Korea), Kim didn’t appear publicly at missile tests and military drills in the last year. This is his first absence from office over 10 years. According to the website, Kim may have been absent due to medical issues or other efforts to reduce attention.

Kim made no mention in his latest speech of South Korea’s efforts to resume stalled negotiations, or offer by the United States for talks. This cast doubts on President Moon Jae In’s determination to make a breakthrough before his May term expires.

According to the U.S. Government’s Congressional Research Service, North Korea has continued to build its nuclear weapons arsenal and missile programs despite UN Security Council sanctions and high level diplomatic efforts. The report was released last month by their Congressional Research Service.

According to the report, “Recent missile testing and military parades indicate that North Korea is still building a nuclear warfare capability intended to evade regional anti-ballistic missile defenses.”