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North Korea fires missile into sea as diplomat decries US policy

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SEOUL: North Korea fired a short-range missile into the sea on Tuesday at nearly the same moment its UN diplomat was decrying the US’s hostile policy against it, in an apparent return to its pattern of mixing weapons displays with peace overtures to wrest outside concessions.

The launch, its third round of weapons firings this month, came only three days after North Korea repeated its offer for conditional talks with South Korea. Some experts say the latest missile launch was likely meant to test how South Korea would respond as North Korea needs Seoul to persuade Washington to ease economic sanctions and make other concessions.

In an emergency National Security Council meeting, the South Korean government expressed regret over what it called a short-range missile launch by the North. South Korea’s military earlier said the object fired from North Korea’s mountainous northern Jagang province flew towards the waters off the North’s eastern coast. Further details of the launch were being analysed.

The US Indo-Pacific Command said the launch didn’t pose an immediate threat but highlighted “the destabilising impact of (North Korea’s) illicit weapons programme. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said North Korea fired what could be a ballistic missile and that his government stepped up its vigilance and surveillance.

A ballistic missile launch would violate a UN Security Council ban on North Korean ballistic activities, but the council typically doesn’t impose new sanctions on North Korea for launches of short-range weapons.

The launch came after Kim Yo Jong, the influential sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, reached out to Seoul twice on Friday and Saturday, saying her country was open to resuming talks and reconciliatory steps if conditions are met. She criticised Seoul for calling Pyongyang’s previous missile tests a provocation and demanded it abandon unfair double-dealing standards and hostile policies.

Her overture followed the North’s two previous rounds of missile launches this month the first one with a newly developed cruise missile and the other with a ballistic missile fired from a train, a new launch platform. Those launches demonstrated North Korea’s ability to attack targets in South Korea and Japan, both key US allies where a total of 80,000 American troops are stationed.

Published in Dawn, September 29th, 2021

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