Missile Test May Have Broken a North Korean Moratorium

Country self-imposed a moratorium on testing longer-range missiles in 2018
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 30, 2022 5:20 AM CST
North Korea Tests Missile, Its Longest-Range Since 2017
People watch a TV showing a file image of North Korea's missile launch during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022.   (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

North Korea on Sunday fired what appeared to be the most powerful missile it has tested since President Biden took office, as it revives its old playbook in brinkmanship to wrest concessions from Washington and neighbors amid a prolonged stalemate in diplomacy. The Japanese and South Korean militaries said the missile was launched on a lofted trajectory, apparently to avoid the territorial spaces of neighbors, and reached a maximum altitude of about 1,250 miles and traveled about 500 miles before landing in the sea. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said Sunday’s missile flew for around 30 minutes and landed in waters outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

The flight details suggest the North tested its longest-range ballistic missile since 2017, when it twice flew intermediate-range ballistic missiles over Japan and, separately, three intercontinental ballistic missiles that demonstrated the potential to reach deep into the American homeland. Sunday's test was North Korea’s seventh round of launches this month. The unusually fast pace of tests indicates its intent to pressure the Biden administration over long-stalled nuclear negotiations as pandemic-related difficulties put further stress on an economy broken by decades of mismanagement and crippling US-led sanctions over its nuclear weapons program.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in called an emergency National Security Council meeting where he described the test as a possible "mid-range ballistic missile launch" that brought North Korea to the brink of breaking its 2018 self-imposed moratorium on the testing of nuclear devices and longer-range missiles. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un chaired a ruling party meeting on Jan. 20, where senior party members made a veiled threat to lift the moratorium, citing what they perceived as US hostility and threats, reports the AP.

The latest launch suggests Kim's moratorium is already broken, said Lee Choon Geun, a missile expert and honorary research fellow at South Korea’s Science and Technology Policy Institute. In his strongest comments toward the North in years, Moon said the situation around the Korean Peninsula is beginning to resemble 2017 and that the North’s latest moves violated UN Security Council resolutions and were a "challenge toward the international community's efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, stabilize peace and find a diplomatic solution" to the nuclear standoff. (Read more North Korea stories.)

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