A Day After Signaling Fresh Talks With US, N. Korea Fires Sub-Launched Ballistic Missile

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By Patrick Goodenough | October 2, 2019 | 4:23 AM EDT

A man walks past a TV screen at Seoul railway station, showing file footage of a North Korean missile launch, on Wednesday. (Photo by Jung Yeon-je/AFP/Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) – Japanese and South Korean security officials held emergency consultations Wednesday after North Korea fired what Seoul said appeared to be a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). The projectile reportedly landed inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

The incident, the first of its kind among numerous North Korean short-range ballistic missile launches since last May, came just a day after Pyongyang said it had agreed to restart stalled talks with the U.S. on Friday.

Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, said the missile likely fell into the sea inside the Japanese exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea runs 370 kilometers (230 miles) from a country’s shoreline.

(Initially it was reported that two missiles were fired, but it appeared that a single missile had broken into two.)

Suga said no damage to ships or aircraft had been reported, but Tokyo lodged a protest with North Korea over the launch, which Prime Minister Shinzo Abe termed a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Abe, who convened a National Security Council meeting to discuss the incident, told reporters Japan would “continue to work closely with the U.S. and international community, and do all we can to protect the lives of Japanese people.”

South Korea’s National Security Council also met, and President Moon Jae-in’s office said afterwards members expressed grave concern about the launch ahead of the scheduled resumption of North Korea-U.S. talks later this week.

Since May, North Korea has launched at least a dozen short-range missiles, although none were SLBMs, and previous ones were reported to have flown shorter distances before plunging into the sea. (North Korea previously claimed to have launched SLBMs in 2015 and 2016.)

After a ground-based launch on May 9 this year, the Pentagon said several missiles had flown eastwards for more than 300 kilometers (186 miles). According to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), a missile launched on August 24 flew about 380 kilometers (236 miles) and reached an altitude of 97 kilometers (60 miles), while two more launched on September 10 flew a maximum of 330 kilometers (205 miles).

Wednesday’s missile, according to JCS, was launched from the sea off the east coast city of Wonsan, reached an altitude of about 910 kilometers (565 miles) before landing in the ocean about 450 kilometers (280 miles) from the launch location.

A rough estimation of the path taken by the missile in Wednesday's launch. (Image: Google Maps)

Last July, North Korean media outlets reported that Kim had inspected a newly-built submarine, although U.S. experts believed it was probably a modified Soviet-era Romeo-class submarine. North Korea reportedly has around 20 of them.

President Trump has played down the short-range missile launches, differentiating them from the longer-range missiles – including ICBMs – test-fired by the Kim Jong Un regime in 2017.

By contrast, other administration officials, including former National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, characterized them as probable violations of UNSC resolutions, as have the Japanese and South Korean governments.

Trump held two summits with Kim, in Singapore in June 2018 and in Hanoi last February, when the talks ended early and abruptly. The process than stalled, although Trump met with the North Korean dictator for a third time along the inter-Korean border in June, when they agreed that working-level bilateral talks should resume.

On Tuesday, the regime’s vice foreign minister Choe Son-hui announced on state media that North Korean and U.S. officials would hold working-level talks on Saturday this week, after “preliminary contact” on Friday. She did not say where the talks would take place.

State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus, traveling with Pompeo in Rome, was quoted by AP as confirming that talks would take place “within the next week,” but saying she had no further details to share.

 

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow

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