UPDATE 7-Neighbors condemn ‘scandalous’ N.Korea ballistic missile test

* The launch takes place a few days after the test of the “strategic” cruise missile

* Japan condemns ‘scandalous’ test as threat to peace

* The launch coincides with the meeting between Chinese and South Korean Formins

* US calls destabilizing testing but no immediate threat (updates with comment from Chinese Foreign Ministry)

By Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith

SEOUL, Sept. 15 (Reuters) – North Korea fired a pair of ballistic missiles off its east coast on Wednesday, the South Korean military said, raising regional tension just days after testing a missile from cruise https://www.reuters.com/world / asia-pacific / nkorea-test-fires-long-range-cruise-missile-kcna-2021-09-12 which would have nuclear capabilities.

The launches came amid a wave of activity on the peninsula, including high-level diplomatic talks and South Korea’s testing of a new submarine-launched ballistic missile.

North Korea is steadily developing its weapons systems amid a standoff over talks to dismantle its nuclear and ballistic missile arsenals in return for US sanctions relief. The negotiations, initiated between former US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in 2018, have stalled since 2019.

“North Korea fired two unidentified ballistic missiles from its central interior region to the east coast, and South Korea and US intelligence services are conducting detailed analysis for further information The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a statement. .

The missiles were fired just after 12:30 p.m. (03:30 GMT), traveling 800 km (497 miles) at a maximum altitude of 60 km (37 miles), the JCS reported.

The South Korean military has increased its level of surveillance and maintains a full readiness position in close cooperation with the United States, the JCS added.

The U.S. Army’s Indo-Pacific Command said North Korea’s missile launches did not pose an immediate threat to U.S. personnel, territory or allies, but underscored the destabilizing impact of its program of illicit weapons.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga called the missile launch “scandalous” and strongly condemned it as a threat to peace and security in the region.

The Japanese Coast Guard said the missiles landed outside its exclusive economic zone.

Suga and South Korean President Moon Jae-in would convene sessions of their national security councils to discuss the launches, their offices said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a daily briefing that China hopes “the parties concerned” will “hold back.”

MISSILES RACE

Moon witnessed test firing of a ballistic missile launched by a South Korean submarine https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/skorea-blazes-new-path-with-most-potent -conventional-missile-submarine -2021-09-08 when news of the North Korean launches arrived, its first ballistic missile tests since March https://tmsnrt.rs/2PFT4eW.

The two Koreas have developed a range of new missiles and other weapons, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-missiles-southkorea-analys-idUSKBN2BM0G8 but North Korea’s ballistic missile systems have been banned by UN Security Council resolutions.

In November 2017, North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the whole of the United States and declared that it had become a nuclear power. Since then, his main focus has been on testing shorter-range missiles and rockets.

Analysts say short-range missiles are designed to play a major role in warfare by avoiding missile defenses to strike targets in South Korea and Japan.

North Korea said this year it was looking to miniaturize nuclear warheads, which could potentially be mounted on tactical missiles.

“Despite its self-imposed pandemic lockdown, North Korea continues to prioritize military modernization,” said Leif-Eric Easley, professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.

‘BIG MEANING’

The latest launch came as South Korea’s and China’s foreign ministers held talks in Seoul amid concerns over North Korea’s testing and stalled denuclearization negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington.

North Korea said it had successfully tested a new long-range cruise missile last weekend, calling it “a strategic weapon of great importance”. Analysts say the weapon could be its first cruise missile with nuclear capability.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, when asked about previous cruise missile tests, said all sides should work to promote peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

“Not only North Korea but other countries are carrying out military activities,” he told reporters. “We must all make efforts to encourage the resumption of dialogue.”

In a meeting with Wang on Wednesday, Moon asked for China’s support to resume the dialogue, saying North Korea had not responded to offers from South Korea and the United States for talks or a commitment such as humanitarian aid, Moon spokesman said.

Nuclear envoys from South Korea, Japan and the United States also met in Tokyo this week.

US Envoy for North Korea Sung Kim said on Tuesday that the US has no hostile intentions https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/nuclear-envoys-japan-us -skorea-met-after-nkorea -missile-test-2021-09-14 to North Korea and hopes that it will respond positively to offers for talks on its weapons programs.

The United States wants North Korea to give up its nuclear and missile programs in exchange for sanctions relief. North Korea refused.

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; additional reporting by Ritsuko Ando in Tokyo and Emily Chow in Beijing; editing by Lincoln Feast, Robert Birsel)

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