North Korea fired a ballistic missile on Wednesday, just days after South Korean President Moon Jae-in called for renewed peace talks between the North and South.
The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) acknowledged the launch in a Wednesday press release.
“We are aware of the ballistic missile launch and are consulting closely with our allies and partners,” the INDOPACOM statement reads. “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.”
South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported the South Korean military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff assessed the launch took place at around 8:10 a.m. local time, in North Korea’s northern province of Jagang. The missile was fired eastward towards the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea. The Associated Press reported Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said the missile is presumed to have fallen outside of Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
The launch is North Korea’s first missile test of the new year and its first missile test in two months. In October, North Korea fired off a suspected submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).
The new missile launch comes as both the U.S. and South Korea have called for new peace talks with North Korea.
Earlier this week, South Korea’s outgoing President Moon vowed to use his remaining time in office to pursue a diplomatic breakthrough with the North, the Washington Post reported.
Reuters reported the missile launch came hours before Moon planned to attend a groundbreaking ceremony for a new rail line in the east coast city of Goseong, near the border with the North. Moon envisioned the rail line as a means of connecting North and South Korea. At the groundbreaking ceremony, Moon called the project “a stepping stone for peace and regional balance,” but also acknowledged the launch and said the North’s actions raised concerns.
“We should not give up the hope for dialogue in order to fundamentally overcome this situation,” Moon said. “If both Koreas work together and build trust, peace would be achieved one day.”
On Wednesday, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters, “The fact that North Korea has continued to launch missiles [in recent months] is absolutely regrettable. We will continue to strengthen our surveillance more than ever.”