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North Korea fires ballistic missile in latest show of force


North Korea fired a ballistic missile Wednesday, Seoul said, a week after Kim Jong Un vowed to boost Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal and just days before the South inaugurates a new, hawkish president.

Pyongyang has conducted 14 weapons tests since January, including firing an intercontinental ballistic missile at full-range for the first time since 2017.

The Wednesday test comes days before the May 10 inauguration of South Korea’s President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol, who has vowed to take a hard line with North Korea and ramp up security cooperation with the United States after years of failed diplomacy.

The missile flew 470 kilometers (300 miles) and reached an altitude of 780 kilometers, the JCS said, adding it was a “blatant violation of UN Security Council resolutions”.

North Korea’s “repeated launches of ballistic missiles threaten peace and safety of our nation, the region and the international community,” he added.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, meanwhile, urged North Korea “to fully comply with its international obligations”, and said the launch “only contributes to increasing regional and international tensions”, according to his spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

– More nukes? –

Repeated negotiations aimed at convincing Kim to give up his nuclear weapons have come to nothing.

Kim also warned that he could “pre-emptively” use his nuclear force to counter so-called hostile forces at a meeting with top military brass last week.

“It could be a warning message to… Yoon,” said Hong Min of the Korea Institute for National Unification.

– Seoul’s hard line –

But for President-elect Yoon, this “subservient” approach has been a manifest failure. 

US President Joe Biden is due to visit South Korea later this month to meet with Yoon.

However, it is “virtually impossible” for the Security Council to sanction North Korea — which has supported Russia’s attack on Ukraine — due to Moscow’s veto power, said Cheong Seong-chang of the Center for North Korea Studies at the Sejong Institute.

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