For the second time in a week, North Korea has fired an apparent ballistic missile off its eastern coast toward Japan.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, Japan’s Prime Minister’s Office and Defense Ministry all said the weapon was likely a ballistic missile, the Associated Press reported. The U.S. and South Korea are analyzing the launch and no further details were released.
Last week, North Korea fired what it claimed was a hypersonic missile. North Korean media said it was a “hypersonic gliding warhead” that successfully detached from its rocket booster, flew 75 miles, and struck its target 435 miles away.
North Korea said the test was its second hypersonic test after conducting its first in September. At that time, the missile traveled just 125 miles and was difficult for weapons experts to analyze.
Last week’s missile was also fired toward Japan, and Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said the missile was presumed to have fallen outside of Japan’s exclusive economic zone, The Associated Press reported.
The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) acknowledged the launch in a Wednesday press release, calling it a ballistic missile launch, but did not mention potentially hypersonic capabilities.
“We are aware of the ballistic missile launch and are consulting closely with our allies and partners,” the INDOPACOM statement said. “While we have assessed that this event does not pose an immediate threat to U.S. personnel or territory, or to our allies, the ballistic missile launch highlights the destabilizing impact of the DPRK’s illicit weapons program. The U.S. commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan remains ironclad.”
Before the missile launch last week, North Korea’s last launch took place in October when it fired off a suspected submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).
The new year missile launches come as both the U.S. and South Korea have called for new peace talks with North Korea. However, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed last week to strengthen the country’s military forces.
Kim has also maintained that North Korea will not engage in talks with the U.S. unless it withdraws its “hostile policy” of sanctions and military drills in coordination with South Korea.
Kim has called North Korea’s weapons arsenal its key to survival, despite extreme poverty and food scarcity. His quest for that weapons arsenal has been a pillar of his leadership strategy throughout his 10-year reign.