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Both South Korea’s military and Japan’s coast guard announced on October 2 that North Korea had carried out a missile launch into Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said North Korea fired an unidentified projectile that morning from around Wonsan, in southeast Kangwon province, toward the sea to the east.
Japan’s Coast Guard said in a statement North Korea had launched what appeared to be a missile and urged vessels to pay attention to further information and not to approach any debris.
Japan’s top government spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, told the media that the missile appears to have fallen into Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone in the Sea of Japan. Suda also said that another missile launched a few minutes earlier fell outside of Japan’s EEZ.
CNBC reported that the launch was North Korea’s ninth since President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between the two Koreas in June.
The launch also came just a day after North Korea announced that it would resume working-level talks with the United States on October 5, which could potentially break months of stalemate between the two nations.
A Wall Street Journal report said that the timing of Pyongyang’s launch is a provocation with a message for Washington ahead of the resumption of working-level negotiations, quoting the opinion of Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul. “The timing of North Korea’s tests is a statement that it is not being pressured into talks but intends to negotiate from a position of strength,” Easley said.
In response to this latest launch, which was the first North Korean projectile to land in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone since 2017, Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe told reporters that North Korea’s missile launch was in violation of a United Nations ban, and he would call a meeting of Japan’s National Security Council. “We will coordinate closely with the U.S. and other nations,” said Abe.
North Korea has conducted well over a hundred missile tests since its first such test in 1984. As of November 30, 2017, it had carried out 117 tests of strategic missiles. After testing only an unidentified “ultramodern tactical weapon” in 2018 that one source said “did not appear to violate the voluntary moratorium North Korea imposed on nuclear and long-range ballistic missile tests,” Pyongyang resumed missile testing in 2019. In May, North Korea launched several short-range projectiles from the vicinity of Wonsan and two short-range ballistic missiles from the vicinity of Sinori.
Pyongyang launched several short-range ballistic missiles in July, four in August, and two short-range projectiles from Kaechon in September — shortly after proposing to resume denuclearization negotiations with the United States. This seems to set a pattern for the communist nation to precede talks with the United States with missile tests, validating professor Easley’s opinion that the timing of the tests is a statement that the communist regime intends to negotiate from a position of strength.
Photo of launch of intermediate range missiles: Korean Central News Agency (North Korea)
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