North Korea confirms latest missile test


North Korea launching what state media said is a tactical guided missile, on Jan 17, 2022. - AFP

SEOUL (AFP): North Korea said Tuesday (Jan 18) it test-fired two tactical guided missiles a day earlier to verify the accuracy of that weapon system.

Monday's firing -- South Korea called them short range ballistic missiles -- marked North Korea's fourth weapons test this month as Pyongyang flexes its military muscle while ignoring offers of talks from the United States.

Despite biting international sanctions, Pyongyang has conducted a string of weapons tests this year, including of hypersonic missiles, as leader Kim Jong-un pursues his avowed goal of further strengthening the military.

Reeling economically from a self-imposed coronavirus blockade, impoverished North Korea has not responded to Washington's offers of talks, while doubling down on weapons tests and vowing a "stronger and certain" response to any attempts to rein it in.

The launches come at a delicate time in the region, with North Korea's sole major ally China set to host the Winter Olympics next month and South Korea gearing up for a presidential election in March.

The state news agency KCNA said Tuesday: "The two tactical guided missiles launched in the western area of the DPRK precisely hit an island target in the East Sea of Korea." DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

"The Academy of Defence Science confirmed the accuracy, security and efficiency of the operation of the weapon system under production," KCNA said.

This latest test was first reported by the South Korean military's Joint Chiefs of Staff as well as Japan.

In response, the United States called on North Korea Monday to "cease its unlawful and destabilizing activities."

In a call with South Korean and Japanese officials, the US special representative on North Korea, Sung Kim, "expressed concern" about the missile launches and urged Pyongyang to return to dialogue "without preconditions," the State Department said.

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