North Korea fires suspected ballistic missile.

Launch is the first this year for the nuclear-armed nation.

People in Seoul watching a TV broadcast on a previous North Korean missile launch
South Korea and Japan said Pyongyang carried out a launch on Wednesday. Japan said it was a suspected ballistic missile [File: Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters]

By faith Barbara Namagembe Updated at 0730 EAT on 05 January 2022.

North Korea fired a suspected ballistic missile off its east coast on Wednesday, authorities in Japan and South Korea said, in the nuclear-armed country’s first show of force this year.

Japan’s coast guard, which first reported the launch, said the projectile could be a ballistic missile but did not provide further details.

“Since last year, North Korea has repeatedly launched missiles, which is very regrettable,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters.

Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi told reporters the suspected missile had flown for about about 500 kilometres (310.7 miles) and landed outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said that analysis of the launch was ongoing.

The North launched the missile eastwards at about 8:10am (23:10 GMT) from a land-based platform, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said, according to the Yonhap news agency.

“For additional information, the intelligence authorities of South Korea and the United States are conducting a detailed analysis,” the JCS said in a text message sent to reporters, without elaborating.

The test comes days after the conclusion of a key party meeting that focused mainly on the pandemic-hit economy, although leader Kim Jong Un promised to continue to bolster the country’s defence but did not specifically mention weaponry.

Writing on Twitter, Ankit Panda said the launch of a single missile could indicate a developmental test.

“Some signs that this could be something new,” the Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace wrote.

Pyongyang carried out a series of missile launches last year, and in October said it tested a “new type” of submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). It was the first test of an SLBM since 2019.

The country is banned from carrying out ballistic missile tests under United Nations sanctions.

Denuclearisation talks have been stalled since the collapse of a high profile second summit in Hanoi between Kim and Donald Trump, who was then United States president.

South Korea’s Moon Jae-in, whose term as president comes to an end in May, is urging Pyongyang to return to negotiations and in his New Year address said he would make all efforts to secure a peace agreement on the divided peninsula.

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