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North Korea fires ballistic missile ahead of South's vote

Jon Herskovitz and Soo-Hyang Choi, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

North Korea fired at least one suspected intermediate-range ballistic missile in a show of force that came just days ahead of national elections in South Korea for parliamentary seats.

North Korea launched what appeared to be an intermediate-range ballistic missile from Pyongyang at 6:53 a.m. on Tuesday, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a message sent to reporters. The missile likely landed outside of Japan’s exclusive economic zone, Kyodo News reported, citing a government official it did not name.

This was the third test of ballistic missiles from Kim Jong Un’s regime this year.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida called the launch “absolutely unacceptable” and in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions, Kyodo reported.

North Korea last tested an intermediate-range ballistic missile in January. A missile of this sort is built to fly far enough to hit all of Japan, where the U.S. has positioned tens of thousands of troops, as well as U.S. military facilities in Guam, where the Pentagon says it keeps one of America’s largest munitions depots in the world.

In March, Kim oversaw tests of multiple rocket launcher systems that fired off several nuclear-capable, short-range ballistic missiles. South Korea said that test may have been a display intended for Russia. The U.S., South Korea and Kyiv say the Kremlin has been using North Korean missiles for its assault on Ukraine.

South Korea’s defense minister Shin Wonsik has said North Korea is believed to have sent some 7,000 shipping containers of weapons since Kim and President Vladimir Putin met for a summit in September. They can hold about 3 million rounds of 152 mm shells, he said. North Koran and Russia deny the accusations despite a multitude of images from satellites showing the arms transfers taking place.


Russia in return is providing North Korea with food, raw materials and parts used in weapons manufacturing, Shin said. The food aid has helped Kim stabilize prices for necessities, he said. If the arms transfers grow, Russia will likely send more military technology to Kim, increasing Pyongyang’s threat to the region, he added.

North Korea has a habit of provocations that coincide with elections in South Korea, which is set for a national vote on April 10. Kim’s regime has bristled at the government of current conservative President Yoon Suk Yeol, who has taken a hard line on Pyongyang, and the latest launch serves as a reminder of North Korea’s threats to security.

Kim guided military drills last month that included fire from an artillery unit capable of hitting Seoul, stepping up threats against his neighbor that coincided with it holding joint military training with the U.S.

Pyongyang fired 30 ballistic missiles and three space rockets in 2023. They included five intercontinental ballistic missiles that could hit the U.S. mainland. Kim’s regime launched more than 70 ballistic missiles in 2022, a record for the state.


(With assistance from Shinhye Kang and Ryotaro Nakamaru.)

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