North Korea conducts seventh suspected missile launch in busiest month for tests

North Korea conducts seventh suspected missile launch in busiest month for tests

January 30, 2022

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea launched at least one suspected ballistic missile into the sea off its east coast on Sunday, governments in the region reported, in what would be the nuclear-armed country’s seventh test this month.

The Japanese government said North Korea had launched a “possible ballistic missile,” while South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff reported the launch of an unidentified projectile, without elaborating.

If confirmed, it could make January the busiest ever for North Korea’s missile programme, which analysts say is expanding and developing new capabilities despite strict sanctions and United Nations Security Council resolutions that ban the country’s ballistic missile tests.

In an address ahead of the New Year, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for bolstering the military with cutting edge technology at a time when talks with South Korea and the United States have stalled.

Since then, North Korea has conducted a series of launches displaying a dizzying array of weapon types, launch locations, and increasing sophistication.

From hypersonic missiles and long-range cruise missiles to missiles launched from railcars and airports, the tests highlight the nuclear-armed state’s rapidly expanding and advancing arsenal amid stalled denuclearisation talks.

North Korea has not tested its longest-range intercontinental ballistic missiles or nuclear weapons since 2017, but the country’s rulers suggested this month they could restart those activities.

Its latest launches included a test of two short-range ballistic missiles and their warheads on Thursday, and an update to a long-range cruise missile system was tested on Tuesday.

Pyongyang has defended the launches as its sovereign right of self defence and say they are not directed at any specific country, but accused Washington and Seoul of having “hostile policies.”

Kim visited a munitions factory last week, where he called for “an all-out drive” to produce “powerful cutting-edge arms,” and its workers touted his devotion to “smashing … the challenges of the U.S. imperialists and their vassal forces” seeking to violate their right to self-defence, calling it “the harshest-ever adversity.”

(Reporting by Cynthia Kim; Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Grant McCool and Daniel Wallis)