North Korea launched a ballistic missile into the sea of the coast of Japan on Tuesday, the South Korean and Japanese militaries said.
It comes as South Korea, Japan and US intelligence chiefs reportedly met in Seoul to discuss North Korea.Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said there were two ballistic missiles, calling the launches "very regrettable".It came hours after the US reaffirmed its offer to resume diplomacy on the North’s nuclear weapons programme.
South Korea’s presidential office was planning to hold a national security council meeting to discuss the launch.
A strong South Korean response could anger North Korea, which has been accusing Seoul of hypocrisy for criticising the North’s weapons tests while expanding its own conventional military capabilities.
Ending a months-long lull, North Korea has been ramping up its weapons tests since last month while making conditional peace offers to Seoul, reviving a pattern of pressuring South Korea to try to attain what it wants from the United States.
President Joe Biden’s special envoy for North Korea, Sung Kim, is schedule to hold talks with US allies in Seoul within days over the prospects of reviving talks with North Korea.
Nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang have stalled for more than two years over disagreements in exchanging the release of crippling US-led sanctions against North Korea and the North’s denuclearisation steps.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has vowed to strengthen his nuclear deterrent since his diplomatic fallout with then-President Donald Trump.
His government has so far rejected the Biden administration’s offers to restart dialogue without preconditions, saying Washington must first abandon its “hostile policy”, a term the North mainly uses to refer to sanctions and US-South Korea military exercises.
But while North Korea is apparently trying to use South Korea’s desire for inter-Korean engagement to extract concessions from Washington, analysts say Seoul has little negotiation room as the Biden administration is intent on maintaining sanctions until the North makes concrete steps toward denuclearisation.
“The US continues to reach out to Pyongyang to restart dialogue. Our intent remains the same. We harbour no hostile intent toward the DPRK and we are open to meeting without preconditions,” Sung Kim told reporters on Monday, referring to the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“Even as we remain open to dialogue, we also have a responsibility to implement the UN Security Council resolutions addressing the DPRK.”