South Korea successfully fires its first submarine missile

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – The powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Wednesday criticized the South Korean president and threatened “complete destruction” of bilateral relations after the two countries tested ballistic missiles within hours apart.

The missile launches have underscored a return of tensions between rivals at a time when talks to strip North Korea of ​​its nuclear program have stalled.

Kim’s sister Kim Yo Jong criticized South Korean President Moon Jae-in for comments he made while observing his country’s missile tests, including its first submarine-launched ballistic missile. Moon said South Korea’s growing missile capabilities would serve as a “sure deterrent” against North Korean provocations.

The tests took place hours after the South Korean and Japanese military said North Korea fired two ballistic missiles into the sea.

In a statement released by state media, Kim rebuked Moon for calling the North Korean weapons demonstrations provocative and warned of a “complete destruction” of bilateral ties if he continued what she was doing. described it as a slander against North Korea.

She said that North Korea is developing its military self-defense capabilities without targeting a specific country, and South Korea is also increasing its military capabilities. North Korea has often accused the South of hypocrisy for introducing modern weapons while calling for talks on easing tensions between divided countries.

“If the president joins in slander and denigration (against us), it will be followed by counter-actions, and North-South relations will be pushed towards complete destruction,” she said. “We don’t want that.”

The South Korean and Japanese military said the two short-range ballistic missiles fired by North Korea traveled 800 kilometers (500 miles) before landing in the sea inside Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone – a worrying development even if they did not reach Japanese territorial waters. The last time a North Korean missile landed in this area was in October 2019.

The launches came two days after North Korea said he fired a newly developed cruise missile, its first known missile test in six months.

Hours after the last North Korean launches, South Korea announced its first test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile. As Moon and other senior officials watched, the missile flew from a submarine and hit a designated target, Moon’s office said. He didn’t say how far the gun flew.

The UN Security Council has scheduled emergency consultations on the North Korean missile fire late Wednesday afternoon at the request of France and Estonia, diplomats said.

UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric expressed concern about the missile fire, reaffirming that “diplomatic engagement remains the only way to lasting peace and a complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula”.

Experts say North Korea is strengthening its weapon systems to put pressure on the United States in hopes of securing relief from economic sanctions aimed at forcing the North to give up its nuclear arsenal. US-led talks on the issue have stalled for more than two years.

“North Korea is trying to get the message across that things will not turn out the way Washington wants if it does not accept the North’s demands,” said Moon Seong Mook, analyst at the Korea Research Institute for National Strategy, based in Seoul. He said North Korea might think it now has an opportunity to secure concessions from the administration of US President Joe Biden as it becomes embroiled in a domestic debate following the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. .

Observers say Moon’s government, which actively pursues reconciliation with North Korea, may have taken steps to appear tougher in response to criticism that it is too gentle on the North.

Rival nations are still technically at war since the 1950-53 Korean War, which pitted the North and China’s ally to the South, and US-led UN forces, s ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the launches “threaten the peace and security of Japan and the region and are absolutely scandalous.”

The US Indo-Pacific Command said the North Korean test “highlights the destabilizing impact of (North Korea’s) illicit weapons program,” although it said it did not. was not an immediate threat to the United States.

The North Korean launches represent a violation of UN Security Council resolutions that prohibit North Korea from engaging in any ballistic missile activity. But the council usually doesn’t impose new sanctions when the North launches short-range missiles, like Wednesday’s.

Wednesday’s tests took place while Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was in Seoul for meetings with Moon and other senior officials to discuss North Korea and other issues.

It is unusual for North Korea to make provocative launches when China, its last great ally and biggest aid provider, is engaged in a major diplomatic event. But some experts say North Korea may have used the timing to gain more attention.

Kim Dong-yub, a professor at the Seoul University of North Korean Studies, said Wednesday’s tests appeared to be an improved version of a short-range missile he tested in March. He said the weapon is likely modeled after Russian Iskander missiles, which are designed to fly at relatively low altitudes, making them more difficult to intercept by missile defense systems.

The international community wants North Korea to abandon its nuclear program and has long used a combination of the threat of sanctions and the promise of economic aid to try to influence the North. But negotiations have stalled since 2019, when then-US President Donald Trump’s administration rejected the North’s demand for major sanctions relief in exchange for dismantling an aging nuclear facility.

Kim Jong Un’s government has so far rejected the Biden administration’s overtures for dialogue, demanding that Washington first abandon what it calls “hostile” policies. But North Korea has maintained its self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile testing, a sign it may not want to completely scuttle the possibility of reopening the talks.

In 2017, North Korea claimed to have acquired the ability to strike the Americas with nuclear weapons after conducting three intercontinental ballistic missile tests and its most powerful nuclear test. In recent years, it has also carried out a series of submarine launched missile tests, which experts say is a worrying development as such weapons are difficult to detect and would provide North Korea with a strike capability. retaliation.

South Korea, which has no nuclear weapons, is under the protection of the American “nuclear umbrella”, which guarantees a devastating American response in the event of an attack on its ally. But South Korea has stepped up efforts to develop its conventional weapons, including developing more powerful missiles.

Experts say South Korea’s military progress is aimed at improving its preemptive strike capability and destroying major North Korean facilities and bunkers.

Apart from the submarine-launched missile, South Korea has also tested a missile from an aircraft.

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Associated Press writer Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.


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