Nuclear-armed North Korea fired a presumed short-range missile into the sea yesterday, the South’s military said, as Pyongyang’s UN ambassador insisted it had an undeniable right to test its weapons.
The projectile was fired from the northern province of Jagang into waters off the east coast, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a Japanese defence ministry spokesman said it “appears to be a ballistic missile”.
Less than an hour later, Pyongyang’s United Nations ambassador Kim Song told the UN General Assembly in New York: “Nobody can deny the right to self-defence for the DPRK”, North Korea’s official name.
It was the latest in a series of mixed messages from Pyongyang, coming days after leader Kim Jong-un’s influential sister Kim Yo-jong, a key adviser to her brother, dangled the prospect of an inter-Korean summit.
But she insisted that “impartiality” and mutual respect would be required, calling for South Korea to “stop spouting an impudent remark”.
She condemned as “double standards” South Korean and US criticism of the North’s military developments, while the allies build up their own capacities.
Washington condemned the latest launch, with the state department calling it a threat to North Korea’s neighbours and the international community, and a “violation of multiple UN Security Council Resolutions”.
In recent days, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who has only months left in office, reiterated at the UN General Assembly his longstanding calls for a formal declaration of an end to the Korean War. The North invaded the South in 1950 and hostilities ceased three years later with an armistice rather than a peace treaty, leaving them technically still in a state of conflict.
Pyongyang is under multiple sets of international sanctions over its banned programmes to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
In his own General Assembly speech, ambassador Kim Song said North Korea had a right to “develop, test, manufacture and possess” weapons systems equivalent to those of the South and its US ally.
“We are just building up our national defence in order to defend ourselves and reliably safeguard the security and peace of the country,” he said.
Pyongyang has already carried out several missile launches this month, one involving long-range cruise missiles and another that the South Korean military said was of short-range ballistic missiles.
Seoul also successfully test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) for the first time, making it one of a handful of nations with the advanced technology.