N Korea launches a possible missile at sea in the midst of stalled negotiations

SEOUL, South Korea (AP), - North Korea fired what appeared to have been a ballistic missile into its east sea on Tuesday. This was its second launch in a row following Kim Jong Un's call to increase its nuclear weapons program, in defiance to international opposition.

N Korea launches a possible missile at sea in the midst of stalled negotiations

These launches come after a series weapons tests in 2021, which highlighted how North Korea continues to expand its military capability during a self-imposed nuclear lockdown and deadlocked talks with the United States.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff of South Korea said that North Korea launched what was likely a ballistic missile in the region of its northern Jagang Province. The weapon flew 700 km (434 miles) at Mach 10, before landing in waters off the eastern coast of South Korea. This is a demonstration of a greater capability than North Korea's launch last Wednesday.

According to the North's state media, the launch was a successful test of a hypersonic weapon that it had first tested in September.

Although South Korean officials did not provide any specific information about the missile type, experts believe that North Korea may have tested the hypersonic missile again after South Korea canceled its previous test.

Japan's Defense Ministry stated that the ballistic missile was not within Japan's exclusive economic zone.

Fumio Kishida, Prime Minister of Japan, stated that officials were monitoring the safety of aircraft and ships around Japan but that there were no immediate reports of damage or disruptions.

Kishida stated that "it is very regrettable that North Korea continues to fire" missiles after the U.N. Security Council had discussed its response to North Korea's earlier launch.

On Monday, the Security Council met in closed-door discussions about last week's launch. However, no action was taken. The U.S. and five of its allies released a statement calling on North Korea to end its ballistic and nuclear missile programs ahead of the talks.

According to South Korea's presidential offices, Tuesday's launch was discussed at an urgent meeting of the National Security Council. Members have asked North Korea to resume talks. Moon Jae-in, President Moon Jae'in, expressed concern that Pyongyang was increasing its testing activities ahead of March's South's presidential election.

According to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, there was no immediate threat to personnel or territory of the United States or our allies.

Nevertheless, the launch coincided with an order to ground certain flights on the U.S. West Coast.

KCRA, a Sacramento television station, reported that officials from both the local airport and San Francisco International Airport said that flights had stopped for five minutes at 2:30 PM local time. This was only minutes after launch. They blamed the Federal Aviation Administration for the sudden halt.

According to recordings made online, air-traffic controllers on the West Coast also ordered aircraft to be grounded. According to LiveATC.net recordings, a San Francisco air traffic controller directed flights to avoid his airspace and not takeoff or land at the same time.

"Things are changing very quickly," said the air traffic controller in the recording. He added later: "I just heard about ground-stopping all planes, so I don’t know anything. Just hold on there."

According to another recording, an air-traffic controller at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport said that they had received an order to "ground stop all aircrafts," and also told other aircraft in the area that they were being stopped from departing.

The FAA did no immediate response to a request for comment on the ground stop.

Six days earlier, North Korea launched a missile into sea to test a hypersonic missile.

Seoul's Defense Ministry stated that North Korea had exaggerated their capabilities and had tested a ballistic missile that the South could intercept. According to the ministry, it is skeptical that North Korea has developed the technology necessary for a hypersonic weapon.

South Korea's Sejong Institute analyst Cheong Seong Chang said that the North's leadership would be "enraged” by South Korea’s assessment of last week’s launch. He suggested that they may have planned a series test to prove their threat credible.

Because of their speed and maneuverability, hypersonic weapons fly at speeds exceedingly high Mach 5. These weapons were included in the wish-list Kim revealed last year, along with multi-warhead missiles and spy satellites.

Experts believe that North Korea is years away from having a reliable hypersonic system.

The North Korean nuclear program was under U.S. sanctions. Kim had pledged to strengthen his military forces during a major political conference.

Kim has little to show for his diplomacy and cooperation with Donald Trump, who was reelected after their second meeting in 2019. The Americans rejected North Korea’s request for significant sanctions relief in return for partial surrender of its nuclear capability.

Biden's policies reflect a wider shift in U.S. attention from counterterrorism to facing a near-peer enemy in China. The administration has stated that it is willing to resume negotiations with North Korea without conditions.

However, North Korea has rejected open-ended negotiations and said that the U.S. must first end its "hostile strategy", which the North uses mainly to refer to the sanctions and joint U.S./South Korea military drills.

Leif-Eric Easley, an Ewha University professor in Seoul, said that "Even with North Korea’s pandemic borders lockdowns restricting trade, diplomacy and diplomacy," and that Pyongyang is determined run an arms race against Seoul to deny Washington the luxury and privilege of focusing on Russia or China.

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