North Korea fires ballistic missile, disrupts start of election campaign in Japan | New

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By Josh Smith and Hyonhee Shin

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea fired at least one ballistic missile off its east coast on Tuesday, removing Japan’s new prime minister from election campaign https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/ japan-kicks-off -election-campaign-support-ruling-ldp-dips-2021-10-19 and eclipsing the opening of a large arms fair https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific / nkorea-threatens-upstage-skorea -defence-expo-with-duelling-military-show-2021-10-14 in Seoul.

The launch, reported by South Korean and Japanese officials, came after US and South Korean envoys met in Washington to discuss the nuclear standoff with North Korea on Monday. Spy chiefs from the United States, South Korea and Japan are also said to have gathered in Seoul on Tuesday.

The North Korean launch would be the country’s latest weapons test, which has continued its military development in the face of international sanctions imposed on its nuclear weapons and missile programs.

A ballistic missile was launched around 10:17 a.m. local time from near Sinpo, said the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff, where North Korea keeps submarines as well as equipment for testing submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs).

South Korean newspaper Joongang Ilbo quoted an anonymous military source as saying the government “assumed it was an SLBM test”, without giving details.

North Korea also launched other types of missiles from this area.

“Our military is closely monitoring the situation and maintains a readiness position in close cooperation with the United States, to prepare for possible additional launches,” JCS said in a statement.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said two ballistic missiles had been detected and that it was “regrettable” that North Korea had conducted a series of missile tests in recent weeks.

There was no immediate explanation from the South Korean JCS for the contradictory number of missiles detected.

Kishida canceled scheduled campaign appearances https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/japan-kicks-off-election-campaign-support-ruling-ldp-dips-2021-10-19 in the northern Japan, and the Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary told reporters that Kishida was planning to return to Tokyo to deal with the missile situation.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which manages relations with the north, said routine daily liaison calls with the north went smoothly on Tuesday and made no comment on the missile launch.

FULL OF ACTIVITY

The series of recent launches as well as the opening of an unusual military show https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/nkorea-threatens-upstage-skorea-defence-expo-with-duelling-military- -2021-10-14 show in Pyongyang last week suggests North Korea may resume military and international affairs after nearly two years of domestic concentration amid the COVID-19 pandemic, analysts said.

“North Korea’s renewed ballistic missile testing suggests that the worst domestic difficulties between summer 2020-2021 may be over,” Chad O’Carroll, CEO of Korea Risk Group, said on Twitter.

“Pyongyang tends to focus on one big strategic issue at a time, so repeated testing might suggest military priority – later foreign policy – now top priority,” he added.

Despite economic hardships amid a self-imposed pandemic lockdown, North Korea has continued its meteoric missile development and expanded nuclear activity, said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.

“Now that the Kim regime is gradually easing border restrictions for limited external engagement, it is simultaneously testing missiles to advance its military modernization,” he said. “Pyongyang rhetorically puts the burden of strained ties on Seoul and the responsibility for restarting diplomacy on Washington.”

The launch came as intelligence chiefs from the United States, South Korea and Japan were scheduled to meet in Seoul to discuss the standoff with North Korea, among other matters, reported Yonhap News Agency, citing a government source.

U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Sung Kim has said he will travel to Seoul for talks this week.

“The United States continues to reach out to Pyongyang to restart dialogue,” Kim said after meeting his South Korean counterpart in Washington on Monday. “We have no hostile intentions towards (North Korea) and we are open to meeting with them without preconditions.”

MISSILES RACE

The missiles North Korea recently tested appear to be aimed at matching or surpassing South Korea’s quietly expanding arsenal, analysts say.

Last month, South Korea successfully tested an SLBM https://www.reuters.com/business/aerospace-defense/skorea-successfully-tests-submarine-launched-ballistic-missile-blue-house-2021- 09-15, becoming the first country without nuclear weapons to develop such a system. A North Korean test fired a missile launched from a train the same day.

This month, the two Koreas held dueling defense exhibitions aimed at showcasing their latest weapons amid a spiraling arms race.

As news of Tuesday’s missile launch broke, representatives of hundreds of international companies and foreign militaries gathered in Seoul for the opening ceremonies of the International Aerospace and Defense Expo. (ADEX).

According to the organizers, it will be the largest defense fair ever to be held in South Korea, with displays of next-generation fighter jets, attack helicopters, drones and other advanced weapons, as well as space rockets and civilian aerospace designs.

South Korea is also preparing to test fire from its first local space launcher https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/spy-satellites-mobile-networks-skorea-hopes-new-rocket-gets -space- program-off-2021-10-15 on Thursday.

Although analysts say the South Korean rocket has few potential applications as a weapon, such tests are unlikely to be well received in North Korea, which has complained of a double standard in which its own space program is criticized abroad as a front for the development of military missiles.

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith; Additional reporting by Ritsuko Ando in Tokyo and David Brunnstrom in Washington; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Gerry Doyle)


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