Pyongyang sent a presentation of credentials into the new year on Wednesday. North Korea launched a test projectile into the Sea of Japan this morning that the South Korean military has identified as a ballistic missile. The trial, the first since October, comes days after Kim Jong-un promised to reinforce his country’s armed forces “to counter the volatile international situation” and hours before South Korean President Moon Jae-in , will lay the foundation stone for a railway line that is expected to connect the Korean peninsula in the future. The project was one of the key points that the leaders of the two Koreas discussed during the 2018 negotiations, which stalled a year later.
The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff reported this morning that Pyongyang had fired at around 8.10 (0.10 from Madrid) towards the East Sea (as the Sea of Japan is known in the two Koreas) which at first was described as “unidentified projectile.” Minutes later, South Korean military authorities indicated that it appeared to be a ballistic missile launched from inside North Korea and that they were closely monitoring the situation, in cooperation with US forces.
The Japanese Executive has also reacted quickly to this display of power: “It is really regrettable that North Korea has repeatedly launched missiles since last year,” criticized the Prime Minister of Japan, Fumio Kishida. “The Government will strengthen alert and vigilance more than ever,” he added. According to Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, the missile flew nearly 500 kilometers before plunging into the waters between North Korea and Japan.
North Korean state media have not reported on Wednesday’s launch, nor have they commented on whether Kim Jong-un made mention of the United States or South Korea during the five-day meeting of the Workers’ Party, which ended on Wednesday. December 31 in Pyongyang. They do pick up that North Korea’s supreme leader emphasized that his country should focus on alleviating chronic food shortages, one of the biggest problems it has had to grapple with during its decade in power, and urged “Boost the country’s defense capabilities without delay.”
The last time the Kim Jong-un regime carried out this type of military maneuver was on October 19, when it tested a ballistic missile launched from a submarine. The development and use of ballistic missile technology or other nuclear devices by North Korea constitutes a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions passed since 2006.
In a statement issued by the South Korean government and reported by the Yonhap news agency, the National Security Council expressed concern about this nuclear test “at a time when stability is extremely necessary both inside and outside the country.” China will host the Winter Olympics and Paralympics from February 4, while South Korea will hold presidential elections on March 9. Council members also stressed the importance of resuming negotiations with Pyongyang as soon as possible.
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“There is concern that tensions could increase and the stagnation of inter-Korean relations could worsen,” Moon Jae-in, who has made the approach to the North one of the pillars of his legislature, told the media. “North Korea should try more seriously,” the president added.
Moon is in the South Korean coastal city of Goseong, near the border with the North, where he attended the ceremony for the commencement of the construction of a railway line to reconnect the two Koreas on Wednesday morning. South Korea aspires to export its products by train to China, Russia and Europe through its neighbor in the North. In 2018, the leaders of both nations agreed to unite the railways of the two countries, but the project was put on hold after denuclearization negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington were cut short at the 2019 Hanoi summit.
The current tenant of the Blue House, firm in his efforts to achieve diplomatic progress before the end of his five-year term, has described the start of the works as “a stepping stone for peace and regional balance on the Korean peninsula.” .
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