After the U.S. reiterated its offer to resume negotiations on North Korea's nuclear weapon program, the launch of the missile into space came just hours after it was launched. It highlighted how North Korea continued to increase its military capabilities despite the diplomatic pause.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff of South Korea stated that it had detected that North Korea launched a short-range missile. It believed it was a submarine-launched missile. Both the South Korean military and the United States were closely monitoring the launch.
South Korea's military claimed that the launch took place at sea but didn't specify whether it was from an underwater vessel or from another platform.
Japan's military stated that its initial analysis indicated that North Korea had fired two ballistic missiles. Fumio Kishida, Prime Minister, said that officials are examining whether the missiles were submarine-launched.
Kishida canceled a campaign trip in Japan ahead of the Japanese legislative elections later in the month, and returned to Tokyo due to the launch. His government was ordered to revise the country's security strategy in order to adapt to the growing North Korean threats. This includes the possibility of pre-emptively striking North Korean military targets.
He said, "We cannot ignore North Korea's recent missile technology development and its impact on security in Japan and the region."
Nobuo Kishi, the Japanese Defense Minister, stated that one of the North Korean missiles flew at a maximum altitude 50 km (30 miles), and traveled on an "incoherent trajectory" for as far as 600 km (360 miles). The missile did not breach Japan's territorial waters, he said.
South Korean officials met with their national security council and expressed deep regret at the launch, despite attempts to restart diplomacy. North Korea has accused Seoul of hypocrisy in criticizing North Korea's weapon tests and expanding its conventional military capabilities. A strong South Korean response could be a resounding threat to that country.
A Sinpo shipyard is the apparent location of missile firing. This is where North Korea's submarine production is concentrated. Sinpo has been used by North Korea in recent years to develop ballistic weapon systems that can be fired from submarines.
In October 2019, North Korea tested a submarine-launched missile ballistic missile (SLBM) for the first time.
Analysts expected North Korea would resume testing such weapons after it launched at least two new submarine-launched rockets during its military parades in 2021 and 2020. Also, there have been indications that North Korea may be building a larger submarine capable of carrying multiple missiles.
Yoshihiko, the Japanese Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary, stated that Tokyo had made a "strong protest to North Korea" through "usual channels," which means their embassies at Beijing. Japan and North Korea do not have diplomatic relations.
Wang Wenbin, spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, stated that tensions are high on the Korean Peninsula and called for a renewed commitment towards a diplomatic solution.
After a long lull in September, North Korea is now increasing its weapon tests and making conditional peace proposals to Seoul. This is a continuation of a pattern that has seen it pressuring South Korea to seek what it wants from America.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "develops submarine-launched missiles to counter American nuclear threats," according to Leif-Eric Easley (a professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University, Seoul).
Easley stated that North Korea cannot afford to appear behind in a regional arms race with its southern neighbor.
He said that North Korea's SLBM was likely far from being operationally deployed with a nuclear warhead.
North Korea has worked hard over the years to obtain the ability to fire nuclear-armed missiles from subseas. This is the next piece of Kim Jong Un’s arsenal, which includes a wide range of mobile missiles as well as ICBMs that have the potential to reach the American homeland.
Experts warn that it will take many years and large amounts of technology for the highly sanctioned country to build even a few submarines capable of traveling quietly on the seas and carrying out strikes.
Sung Kim, Biden's special representative for North Korea, will meet in Seoul with U.S. allies to discuss the possibility of reviving negotiations with North Korea within days.
The U.S. and North Korea are currently at a standstill in their nuclear negotiations. This is due to disagreements about the lifting of U.S.-led sanctions on North Korea in return for North Korea's denuclearization steps.
Analysts say that North Korea may be trying to exploit South Korea's desire to engage in inter-Korean relations to get concessions from Washington. However, Seoul is limited by the Biden administration's determination to keep sanctions in place until North Korea makes concrete steps towards denuclearization.
"The U.S. continues its outreach to Pyongyang in order to restart the dialogue. Our intention remains the same. Sung Kim stated that there is no hostile intent towards (North Korea) and that they are open to meeting without conditions."
Kim Jong Un, who was displaying powerful missiles that could launch nuclear strikes against the U.S. continental during a military demonstration last week, vowed to create an "invincible military" to deal with U.S. hostility. Kim dismissed U.S. offer to resume talks with no preconditions earlier as a "cunning attempt" to hide its hostile policy towards the North.
Over the last month, the country tested a variety of weapons, including a cruise missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads and a hypersonic missile in development.
According to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, North Korea's recent launch was not a threat to personnel, territory or allies.