SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea said on Friday it had tested a new anti-aircraft missile, the fourth weapons launch in recent weeks which experts say is part of a strategy to secure sanctions relief and other concessions.
South Korea, Japan and the United States generally publicly confirm North Korean ballistic missile launches, which are banned by UN resolutions, soon after they occur. But they did not do so by Thursday, indicating that the weapon tested may have been of a different type. Seoul Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Friday that South Korean and US intelligence authorities were monitoring the actions taken by North Korea but had not given details.
Three weeks ago, North Korea resumed missile testing after a six-month lull. As it has sometimes done before, the North combined the show of force with a more conciliatory gesture, offering earlier this week to reactivate the hotlines that North and South Korea use to organize meetings, organize border crossings. and avoid accidental clashes.
Diplomacy aimed at getting the North to give up its nuclear arsenal in exchange for economic and political rewards has largely stalled since early 2019. This has left North Korea under crippling US-led economic sanctions, at a time when its fragile economy is suffering setbacks due to the coronavirus pandemic. The North’s latest moves appear to be aimed at putting pressure on South Korea, which wants to improve strained relations with the peninsula, to persuade the United States to relax sanctions.
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The Korean Central News Agency said on Friday that the anti-aircraft missile test was “of very practical importance for the study and development of various potential anti-aircraft missile systems.”
Kim Dong-yub, a professor at the Seoul University of North Korean Studies, said the launch appears to be the primitive stage of a test to develop a missile designed to shoot down incoming enemy missiles and planes. He said the missile resembles the Russian-made S-400 air defense system, which he says has a range of up to 250 miles and is capable of intercepting stealth jets.
Earlier this week, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un expressed willingness to reestablish direct lines of communication with South Korea in the coming days, but he also ignored US offers of dialogue as a “shrewd” cover-up. of its hostility against the North. He also insisted that South Korea abandon its “double-dealing attitude” if it wants to see an improvement in Korean relations. His comments largely echoed the demands of his sister, who has taken the lead in the ongoing lobbying campaign in the North.
South Korea has said it will prepare for the restoration of cross-border telephone and fax lines, which have largely been idle for more than a year. But on Friday afternoon, North Korea remained insensitive to South Korea’s attempt to exchange messages through the channels, according to the Seoul Unification Ministry.
During the Armed Forces Day ceremony on Friday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in vowed to repel any attempt to threaten the lives of his people and strive for lasting peace. But he didn’t mention North Korea’s recent tests in a possible effort to keep the possibility of talks between the Koreas alive.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday that U.S. officials are still evaluating the most recent missile launch. She added that officials in the Biden administration have made efforts to reach out to North Koreans to spur talks but have not received a response from the regime.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters on Thursday that Washington “certainly supports” the inter-Korean dialogue in principle. But he said the United States was concerned about North Korea’s recent launches, which he said violated UN Security Council resolutions and created “greater prospects for instability and insecurity”.
UN resolutions prohibit all ballistic activity from North Korea.
Information for this article was provided by Matthew Lee of The Associated Press.