On Sunday, North Korea launched at least one ballistic missile toward the sea off its east coast, a day after South Korea and the United States completed their first joint military exercises featuring an American aircraft carrier in over four years.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff of South Korea stated North Korea had shot a “unknown” missile but did not elaborate.
Japan’s authorities likewise claimed that North Korea had launched a ballistic missile.
The launch came after US Special Representative Sung Kim, the US’s main man on North Korean affairs, visited Seoul and left on Saturday.
On Friday, he met with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts, Kim Gunn and Takehiro Funakoshi, to discuss “all contingencies” in the wake of reports that North Korea was planning a nuclear test for the first time since 2017.
Kim said during the visit, which ended on Sunday, that Washington has made it plain to Pyongyang that it is open to talks, and that he was willing to address issues of interest to Pyongyang, such as sanctions relief.
Last week, the United States called for more UN sanctions against North Korea for its ballistic missile launches, but China and Russia vetoed the proposal, publicly dividing the UN Security Council on North Korea for the first time since it began punishing the country in 2006, when it conducted its first nuclear test.
North Korea has tested a variety of missiles in recent weeks, including its strongest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
North Korea’s most recent missile launches occurred on May 25, after US President Joe Biden returned from an Asia tour in which he committed to new measures to dissuade the nuclear-armed regime.
According to South Korean officials at the time, the first missile seemed to be the North’s largest ICBM, the Hwasong-17, while a second unidentified missile appeared to have failed mid-flight. A short-range ballistic missile was the third missile (SRBM).
The Joint Chiefs of Staff of South Korea said on Saturday that three days of training in international waters off the Japanese island of Okinawa included air defense, anti-ship, anti-submarine, and maritime interdiction operations.
Among the warships participating in the exercises was the USS Ronald Reagan, a 100,000-ton nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.
President Yoon Suk-yeol of South Korea, who took office on May 10, agreed with Vice President Joe Biden to intensify bilateral military drills to deter North Korea.
Despite its rhetoric of negotiation, North Korea has blasted previous joint drills as an illustration of Washington’s persistent “hostile actions” toward Pyongyang.