While World Is Focused on Ukraine, North Korea Resumes Ballistic Missile Testing

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SEOUL – North Korea fired a suspected ballistic missile off its east coast on Sunday, militaries of South Korea and Japan said, its first since a spate of launches in January and its eighth test of the year.

The suspected ballistic missile was fired from a location near Sunan District of North Korean capital Pyongyang, said South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.

North Korea appears to be resuming its missile tests after a month-long pause during the Beijing Winter Olympics, which some analysts believe was intended to avoid crossing its ally, China. In January, North Korea conducted seven missile tests, as it works to diversify and expand its arsenal with a variety of new missile systems. During its last test on Jan. 30, North Korea fired an intermediate-range ballistic missile capable of striking Guam, in its most powerful weapons test in years.

Sunday’s launch comes during a period of already heightened tensions in the region, over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It also coincides with a heated campaign ahead of South Korea’s presidential election, which will shape the South’s approach to its rival North’s nuclear threats for years to come.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry expressed “deep concern” over the missile launch on Sunday, noting that it came “at a time when peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula are paramount” due to the tensions over Ukraine and the March 9 presidential election.

South Korea’s presidential Blue House held an emergency meeting of the National Security Council to discuss the weapons test. North Korea is banned from launching ballistic missiles under sanctions imposed by United Nations Security Council.

According to preliminary figures released by the Japanese and South Korean governments, the missile may have traveled as high as 600 km and as far as 300 km – figures that may signal that the missile may be a different type of missile from its usual short-range ones that it tested in January, according to some experts.

The Japanese Prime Minister’s Office directed government agencies to “dedicate maximum effort to gather and analyze information.”

Nuclear talks between North Korea and the United States have been stalled since 2019, when a summit meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and former president Donald Trump collapsed over sanctions relief.

The Biden administration said it is open to meet with North Korea “anytime, anywhere” but has not signaled it is willing to grant the sanctions relief that Pyongyang seeks. Pyongyang has not responded to the offer.





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