North Korea launches first missile in 2022
North Korea launched a missile, possibly ballistic, into waters east of the Korean Peninsula early on Wednesday morning, its first such test of the year.
The launch was reported by the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) and the Japanese Coast Guard.
South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook presided over a National Security Council meeting at 9:45 a.m. in response to the launch and was briefed by JCS Chairman Gen. Won In-choul, according to the Blue House.
"Council members expressed concerns over North Korea's launch at a time when stability is very necessary at home and abroad," the Blue House said in a statement released after the meeting.
NSC members agreed that talks with the North are needed to defuse tensions on the peninsula.
The North has not responded to repeated calls from South Korea and the United States for it to return to denuclearization talks, which collapsed in a summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. president Donald Trump in 2019 in Vietnam.
Although the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has repeatedly said it is willing to meet North Korean representatives "anytime, anywhere" without preconditions, Pyongyang has dismissed Washington's “hostile” policies.
The latest launch came 78 days after the North's last missile test.
In that test, which took place on Oct. 19, the North launched a new, smaller submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).
At a plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the country’s ruling Workers' Party last week, Kim vowed to continue building up his regime’s weapons capabilities.
Despite self-enforced isolation due to the Covid-19 pandemic and international sanctions tied to its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, Pyongyang has expanded its weapons delivery systems over the past year.
In 2021, the nuclear-armed regime tested a new SLBM, a long-range cruise missile, a train-launched ballistic missile unit and a hypersonic missile.
In all, the North conducted seven major weapons tests last year.
Under United Nations Security Council resolutions, the North is prohibited from testing ballistic missiles, but not cruise missiles.
Wednesday’s missile test came as South Korean President Moon Jae-in is pushing for an official declaration to end the Korean War, the wording of which is supposedly under discussion between Seoul and Washington.
The 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice agreement signed by the U.S.-led UN Command, North Korea and China on July 27, 1953, bringing about a ceasefire until a final peaceful settlement was achieved.
The two Koreas remain in a technical state of war, which the South Korean president has declared he wants to change before he leaves office in May.
BY MICHAEL LEE [firstname.lastname@example.org]