North Korea Fires 2 Suspected Ballistic Missiles, Sixth Launch This Month: Officials

By Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.
January 27, 2022Updated: January 27, 2022

North Korea on Thursday morning launched what appeared to be two ballistic missiles off its east coast, the militaries of South Korea and Japan said, marking the nuclear-armed regime’s sixth round of weapons launches this month.

Two likely ballistic missiles were launched at about 8 a.m. local time from near Hamhung, North Korea’s second largest city on its east coast, and travelled for about 190 kilometers (118 miles) to a maximum altitude of 20 kilometers (12 miles), South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said.

The suspected ballistic missiles appeared to have landed outside of Japan’s exclusive economic zone, Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the government was still investigating launches, but that any tests of ballistic missiles are “deeply regrettable” and violate United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Just two days earlier, South Korea’s military said North Korea fired two cruise missiles off its east coast and into the sea. Cruise missiles are not banned by the U.N. resolutions.

And on Jan. 11, the militaries of South Korea and Japan said, North Korea launched an unidentified projectile off its east coast. That report came less than a week after North Korea fired what it claimed to be a “hypersonic” missile.

The launches by nuclear-armed North Korea this month follow a series of weapons tests last year that underscored how the Kim Jong Un regime continues to expand its military capabilities amid a self-imposed pandemic lockdown and deadlocked nuclear talks with the United States.

Earlier this month, the U.S. mission to the United Nations, alongside France, Ireland, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Albania, denounced a missile launch from North Korea in a joint statement.

“These actions increase the risk of miscalculation and escalation and pose a significant threat to regional stability,” U.S. ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said on Jan. 10, adding that such tests expands what North Korea can provide to illicit arms dealers globally.

“[North Korea] makes these military investments at the expense of the well-being of the North Korean people,” Thomas-Greenfield said.

In a speech to the U.N.-sponsored Conference on Disarmament on Tuesday, North Korea’s Ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Han Tae Song, accused the United States of staging hundreds of “joint war drills” while shipping high-tech offensive military equipment into South Korea and nuclear strategic weapons into the region.

“[This] is seriously threatening the security of our state,” Han said of the nuclear-armed North.

North Korea has not launched additional long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) or tested nuclear weapons since 2017, but began testing a slew of shorter-range missiles after denuclearisation talks stalled following a failed summit with the United States in 2019.

Mark Lambert, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for Japan and Korea, on Wednesday said Washington has made it “very clear” to Pyongyang the need to have “serious” discussions on the banned arms tests.

“We will go anywhere. We will talk about anything. There are no reservations we have,” Lambert said. “We have to have a serious discussion about the denuclearization of North Korea, and if North Korea is willing to do that, all sorts of promising things can happen.”

Reuters contributed to this report.