North Korea has fired a projectile presumed to be a short-range missile into waters off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula, according to statements from South Korean officials – just hours before Seoul launched a new submarine.
The missile was fired around 6:40 a.m. local time Tuesday, the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement, adding the South Korean military is “maintaining a readiness posture” for potential “additional launches.”
In a briefing Tuesday, South Korea’s Defense Ministry’s spokesman Boo Seung-chan said Pyongyang’s test was “regrettable for happening at a time when political stability on the Korean peninsula is very critical.”
The US military’s Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii said it was consulting with allies and partners about the North Korean test.
“While we have assessed that this event does not pose an immediate threat to US personnel or territory, or to our allies, the missile launch highlights the destabilizing impact of (North Korea’s) illicit weapons program,” the US military said.
Pyongyang is barred from testing ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons under international law. Previous such tests have been met with international opprobrium and sanctions from the United Nations Security Council.
The news of Tuesday’s test came just before North Korean representative Kim Song addressed the UN General Assembly in New York, where he lamented the divide between North and South Korea, and criticized the US presence in the region.
“Inter-Korean relations have never come out of the shadow of US interference and obstruction,” he said, citing Washington’s close relationship with Seoul.
The missile test is North Korea’s third this month.
On September 11 and 12, Pyongyang said it tested long-range cruise missiles.
Then on September 16, both North and South Korea tested ballistic missiles, ratcheting up tensions exponentially in what was already one of the most volatile regions on the planet.
Top North Korean official Kim Yo Jong – sister of leader Kim Jong Un – said last week that North Korea wanted to repair inter-Korean relations and floated the possibility of reinstalling the joint liaison office, which North Korea destroyed last June.
South Korea’s Unification Ministry welcomed Kim’s message about the possibility of holding “constructive” discussions as “meaningful.” The presidential Blue House did not make an official response.
‘Powerful offensive means’
In his speech, Ambassador Kim accused the US of “antagonizing” his country with military exercises in the region, saying Pyongyang would be “prepared to respond willingly at any time” to friendly overtures from Washington.
In the meantime, he said, “as the whole world knows and as the US is so much concerned, powerful offensive means are, of course, included in our war deterrent.”
The US has repeatedly condemned North Korean missile launches. On September 15, State Department spokesperson Ned Price called for a diplomatic approach to the issue.
“We call on the DPRK to engage in a meaningful and substantive dialogue with us,” he said, using the acronym for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“We have no hostile intent towards the DPRK. We have been very clear about that. What we seek to do is to reduce the threat to the United States, to our allies in the region, and that includes the ROK (Republic of Korea or South Korea) and Japan, and we think we can do that through diplomacy with the ROK,” Price said.
South Korea launches new submarine
South Korea on Tuesday launched its newest submarine, the 3,000-ton Shin Chae-ho, Hyundai Heavy Industries, the sub’s manufacturer, said in a statement.
The “homegrown” 83.5-meter-long (274 feet) sub, built entirely with South Korean technology, is the third in its class and capable of being armed with Seoul’s new submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM), which were successfully tested on September 16.
That launch made South Korea the seventh military in the world to successfully test an SLBM, the country’s Defense Ministry said. North Korea also has SLBMs, showing the newest of them off at a military parade in January.
When the newest sub joins the South Korean fleet in 2024, after undergoing further fitting out and sea trials, it will be able to accommodate a crew of 50 and stay submerged for almost three weeks, Hyundai Heavy Industries said.
CNN’s Jennifer Hansler, Oren Lieberman, Brad Lendon and Caitlin Hu contributed to this report.