North Korea says latest launch was test of tactical guided missiles

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SEOUL, Jan. 18 (UPI) — North Korea confirmed the accuracy of a pair of tactical guided missiles in its latest launch, state-run media said Tuesday, as the secretive regime continues a series of weapons tests in a display of its developing arsenal.

“The test-fire was aimed to selectively evaluate tactical guided missiles being produced and deployed and to verify the accuracy of the weapon system,” state-run Korean Central News Agency reported.

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The missiles, which were fired Monday, “precisely hit an island target” in the sea between Korea and Japan, KCNA said.

Officials “confirmed the accuracy, security and efficiency of the operation of the weapon system under production,” the report added.

The South Korean military initially announced the launch of two short-range ballistic missiles from the international airport in Pyongyang on Monday morning, saying that they flew roughly 236 miles at an altitude of 26 miles.

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The missiles were identified by analysts as the KN-24, a maneuverable solid-fuel SRBM that appears to be modeled on the U.S. MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who viewed the launch last week of what Pyongyang said was a hypersonic weapon, was not reported to be present on Monday.

The missile test was North Korea’s fourth in less than two weeks, as the regime has started the new year with a flurry of activity that is drawing international alarm.

South Korea’s defense ministry called the latest launches a “direct and serious” threat on Tuesday but said that the South’s military had the capability to detect and intercept the short-range missiles, according to news agency Yonhap.

U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Sung Kim spoke with his counterparts in Japan and South Korea on Monday and “expressed concern” about Pyongyang’s recent spate of ballistic missile launches, which are in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Sung Kim called on North Korea “to cease its unlawful and destabilizing activities” and return to dialogue “without preconditions.”

Pyongyang has shown little urgency in coming back to the negotiating table, however, with talks at a standstill since a Februray 2019 summit between then-U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un ended without an agreement on a path towards denuclearization.

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On Friday, North Korea responded sharply to new sanctions imposed by Washington on several individuals, warning of a “stronger reaction” and accusing the Biden administration of remaining “engrossed in its policy for isolating and stifling” the North.

China also weighed in on the launches on Monday, with foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian saying at a press briefing that the tense situation on the Korean Peninsula “hasn’t come to where it is with no reason.”

“We urge relevant parties to keep in mind the big picture of peace and stability of the Peninsula, adhere to the right direction of dialogue and consultation, and work in concert to advance the political resolution process of the Peninsula issue,” Zhao said.

Zhao also confirmed Monday that North Korea and China have resumed railway cargo shipments for the first time since Pyongyang locked down its borders to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in January 2020.