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North Korea Launches Missile           09/28 06:04

   

   SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- North Korea fired a short-range missile into the 
sea Tuesday at nearly the same moment its U.N. diplomat was decrying the U.S.'s 
"hostile policy" against it, in an apparent return to its pattern of mixing 
weapons displays with peace overtures to wrest outside concessions.

   The launch, its third round of weapons firings this month, came only three 
days after North Korea repeated its offer for conditional talks with South 
Korea. Some experts say the latest missile launch was likely meant to test how 
South Korea would respond as North Korea needs Seoul to persuade Washington to 
ease economic sanctions and make other concessions.

   In an emergency National Security Council meeting, the South Korean 
government expressed regret over what it called "a short-range missile launch" 
by the North. South Korea's military earlier said the object fired from North 
Korea's mountainous northern Jagang province flew toward the waters off the 
North's eastern coast. Further details of the launch were being analyzed.

   The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said the launch didn't pose an immediate 
threat but highlighted "the destabilizing impact of (North Korea's) illicit 
weapons program." Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said North Korea fired 
"what could be a ballistic missile" and that his government stepped up its 
vigilance and surveillance.

   A ballistic missile launch would violate a U.N. Security Council ban on 
North Korean ballistic activities, but the council typically doesn't impose new 
sanctions on North Korea for launches of short-range weapons.

   The launch came after Kim Yo Jong, the influential sister of North Korean 
leader Kim Jong Un, reached out to Seoul twice on Friday and Saturday, saying 
her country was open to resuming talks and reconciliatory steps if conditions 
are met. She criticized Seoul for calling Pyongyang's previous missile tests a 
provocation and demanded it abandon "unfair double-dealing standards" and 
"hostile policies."

   Her overture followed the North's two previous rounds of missile launches 
this month -- the first one with a newly developed cruise missile and the other 
with a ballistic missile fired from a train, a new launch platform. Those 
launches demonstrated North Korea's ability to attack targets in South Korea 
and Japan, both key U.S. allies where a total of 80,000 American troops are 
stationed.

   Tuesday's launch "was like testing the South Korean government to see if it 
would impose a double standard and call it a provocation," said analyst Shin 
Beomchul with the Seoul-based Korea Research Institute for National Strategy. 
He said North Korea's status as a nuclear state would be solidified if South 
Korea and others fail to respond strongly.

   Kim Dong-yub, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in 
Seoul, said North Korea may have tested a new missile such as a hypersonic 
glide vehicle that was among an array of high-tech weapons Kim Jong Un has 
vowed to procure.

   South Korea has called Kim Yo Jong's openness to talks "meaningful" but 
urged North Korea to restore communication channels before any talks between 
the rivals can be arranged.

   The inter-Korean communication lines have remained largely dormant for about 
15 months, so restoring them could be a yardstick to assess how serious the 
North is about its offer. Seoul's Unification Ministry said Tuesday North Korea 
remains unresponsive to South Korea's attempts to exchange messages over the 
channels.

   At nearly the same time as Tuesday's launch, North Korean Ambassador Kim 
Song used his speech on the last day of the U.N. General Assembly's annual 
high-level meeting to justify his country's development of a "war deterrent" to 
defend itself against U.S. threats.

   "The possible outbreak of a new war on the Korean Peninsula is contained not 
because of the U.S.'s mercy on the DPRK, it is because our state is growing a 
reliable deterrent that can control the hostile forces in an attempted military 
invasion," Kim said. DPRK refers to Democratic People's Republic of Korea, 
North Korea's official name.

   Kim Yo Jong's offer of conditional talks was a response to South Korean 
President Moon Jae-in's renewed calls for a political declaration to end the 
1950-53 Korean War, which ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving 
the peninsula in a technical state of war.

   The three-year conflict pitted South Korea and U.S.-led U.N. forces against 
North Korea and China and killed 1 million to 2 million people. In his own 
speech at the U.N. last week, Moon proposed the end-of-the-war declaration be 
signed among the two Koreas, the U.S. and China.

   After the North's launch Tuesday, Moon ordered officials to examine its 
latest weapons firing and previous outreach in a comprehensive manner before 
formulating countermeasures, according to Moon's office.

   A U.S.-led diplomatic effort aimed at convincing North Korea to abandon its 
nuclear weapons in return for economic and political benefits has been stalled 
2 years. U.S. officials have repeatedly expressed hopes for further talks but 
have also made it clear the long-term sanctions imposed on North Korea will 
stay in place until the North takes concrete steps toward denuclearization.

   While North Korea has tested short-range weapons and vowed to continue 
building its nuclear arsenal, Kim Jong Un has maintained a moratorium on 
testing longer-range weapons capable of reaching the American homeland, an 
indication he wants to keep the chances for future diplomacy with the U.S. 
alive.

 
 
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