North Korea has launched another missile towards the Sea of Japan (Korean: East Sea). This was reported by the South Korean news agency Yonhap, citing the military. "North Korea has launched a suspected ballistic missile," the Japanese Prime Minister's Office said in a tweet.
On Tuesday, Pyongyang sent a medium-range ballistic missile toward the Sea of Japan. With a flight distance of around 4500 kilometers, a North Korean missile had never before covered a longer range. It was also the first time a North Korean missile had flown over the Japanese archipelago in almost five years. There, the test triggered a rare missile alert: residents of the northern Japanese island of Hokaido and Aomori Prefecture on the northern tip of Japan's main island of Honshu were asked to seek shelter in their homes.
The South Korean military then announced that in response to North Korea's provocation, the US and South Korea had fired four surface-to-surface missiles in the direction of the Sea of Japan (Korean: East Sea). Each side fired two missiles that hit decoy targets precisely. This demonstrated the Allies' ability to deter further provocations.
False start triggered panic
Also on Wednesday morning, another missile from the South Korean army fell to the ground after a false launch. As reported by the Yonhap news agency, citing the South Korean general staff, no one was injured in the accident near the east coast city of Gangneung. The cause of the crash was initially unknown. Panic broke out among some residents of Gangneung, initially fearing an attack by North Korea.
Yonhap also reported, citing the South Korean general staff, that the United States is again sending an aircraft carrier to the waters east of the Korean peninsula in view of the tense situation. The "unusual" return of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier "USS Ronald Reagan" should demonstrate the defense readiness of the allies, it said. Most recently, the ship arrived there for a naval maneuver with South Korea in September for its first visit in almost four years.
Both the US and NATO had condemned Tuesday's North Korean test. US President Joe Biden spoke of a "danger to the Japanese people". NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg wrote on Twitter: "I strongly condemn North Korea's dangerous and destabilizing missile tests."
China blames the US
However, a common position of the UN Security Council is not yet in sight. According to diplomats, no agreement on a text was expected at an emergency meeting on Wednesday in New York. Accordingly, a proposal for a joint statement by China in the run-up to the meeting was blocked.
At the meeting of the most powerful UN body, US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield warned: "By belonging to this council, we have all taken on the great responsibility of protecting and defending international peace and security." North Korea also feels encouraged in its actions by the inactivity of the Security Council. Washington is meanwhile still ready to negotiate with Pyongyang.
Chinese Deputy Ambassador Geng Shuang, on the other hand, blamed the US for North Korea's behavior. In the past, Washington has not responded adequately to the country's denuclearization measures. He called on the US to "create the conditions for starting a dialogue". China is considered North Korea's most important partner.
Experts expect further escalation
The last time North Korea launched a missile over Japan in 2017, the country conducted a nuclear weapons test just days later. Experts fear that North Korea could test another nuclear missile in the coming weeks. According to the South Korean Defense Ministry, the North Korean military is also preparing further tests for an ICBM and a ballistic submarine missile.
UN resolutions prohibit North Korea from testing ballistic missiles of any range, which, depending on the design, can also carry a nuclear warhead. Most recently, North Korea had tested two short-range ballistic missiles on Saturday - that was the fourth missile launch in a week.
Experts also see North Korea's increased missile tests as a reaction to the recent naval maneuvers by South Korean and US forces. The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan also took part in the four-day naval exercises. It was the first deployment of a US aircraft carrier to South Korea in almost four years.