(ATTN: ADDS analysis on missile type, responses in paras 3, 8-10, 15-17; TRIMS)
By Oh Seok-min
SEOUL, Sept. 28 (Yonhap) -- North Korea fired one short-range missile into the East Sea on Tuesday, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said, just days after Pyongyang held out the prospect of an inter-Korean summit if the South drops "double standards."
The missile was fired from the North's Mupyong-ri in Jagang Province eastward at around 6:40 a.m., the JCS said, adding the South Korean and U.S. intelligence authorities are analyzing the launch for additional information.
It did not specify if the projectile is a ballistic missile and has not released such details as its flight range and altitude. Sources raised the possibility that it could be a hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) or a new type of weapon given its unique trajectory and other features.
The launch came three days after Kim Yo-jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, said that Pyongyang could declare a formal end to the Korean War as suggested by the South and even discuss the possibility of a summit on conditions that Seoul drops its double standards and hostile attitudes against it.
The North has long accused South Korea and the United States of double standards, claiming it makes no sense for them to denounce the North's missile launches and other weapons tests as banned "provocations" when they are free to conduct such tests.
Tuesday's launch could be designed to test whether the South would still brand it as a provocation.
In Seoul, top security officials held an emergency security meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) and voiced regret over the launch. President Moon Jae-in ordered a "comprehensive analysis" of the missile launch and recent statements from the North, his office said.
Defense ministry spokesperson Boo Seung-chan also expressed regret and said the government is analyzing the launch and the North's intention. He dismissed the speculation that Seoul stopped short of labeling the launch as a provocation in order not to enrage the North, saying that a further analysis is needed to figure out its exact type.
The U.S. condemned the missile launch, which is in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, and poses a threat to the region and the international community.
The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said in a separate statement that the firing "highlights the destabilizing impact of the DPRK's illicit weapons program" though it does not pose an immediate threat to the U.S. and its allies.
North Korea is banned from all ballistic missile activities under the U.N. resolutions, though Pyongyang has claimed they are aimed at beefing up self-defense against threats posed by South Korea and the U.S.
If the projectile is confirmed to be a ballistic missile, it would mark the third such launch so far this year, and the sixth known major weapons test if test-firings of cruise missiles are taken into account.
On Sept. 15, the North test-fired two short-range missiles, believed to be its version of the Iskander, into the East Sea, which came just days after launching a new type of cruise missile.
Sources in Seoul said the missile flew shorter than 200 kilometers at an altitude of around 60 km, adding it shows "different flight features from the missiles the North previously tested."
"The missile could be something new, such as a hypersonic missile," professor Kim Dong-yup of Kyungnam University's Far East Institute said. HGVs follow a much flatter and lower trajectory compared with traditional ballistic missiles, it is hard to detect and intercept them, he added.
During a party congress in January, leader Kim Jong-un instructed the military to further advance its missiles capabilities, noting that his country is preparing for testing and producing such new weapons as a "supersonic gliding flight warhead for new type ballistic rockets."
North Korea has released several new types of missiles in recent years amid stalled denuclearization talks with the U.S. and in response to the introduction of advanced military assets by South Korea.
Earlier this week, South Korea announced the successful test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile from a new submarine, and unveiled the development of a supersonic cruise missile. The Navy also launched a new 3,000-ton-class submarine capable of firing SLBMs on Tuesday.
Kim Song, North Korean Ambassador to the U.N., reiterated his country's stance Tuesday by saying it has "the righteous right" to develop and test weapons due to threats by the U.S. and South Korea, and urging the U.S. to "permanently stop" the combined exercise with South Korea and the deployment of strategic weapons to the South.
The Joe Biden government has said it is ready to hold talks with the North anywhere, at anytime, but the communist country has remained unresponsive to the U.S. overtures.
Pyongyang also remained unresponsive to South Korea's calls via military hotlines despite cautious optimism for their resumption after Kim's statement.