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(4th LD) N. Korea fires what seems to be SLBM toward East Sea: S. Korea

15:08 October 19, 2021

(ATTN:UPDATES with details, U.S. military response in paras 2-3, 5, 8-10)
By Song Sang-ho

SEOUL, Oct. 19 (Yonhap) -- North Korea fired what appears to be a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) toward the East Sea on Tuesday, South Korea's military said.

The short-range missile was launched from waters east of Sinpo, a city on the North's east coast, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). The launch was detected at 10:17 a.m., it said.

The missile traveled about 590 kilometers at a top altitude of around 60 km, an informed source said, noting the possibility that the North might have used a submarine as a launch platform this time.

The North previously conducted an SLBM test in 2015 and 2019. The South's military believes that it used a barge rather than a submarine during the past tests.

Officials said that Tuesday's launch came after South Korean and U.S. intelligence authorities had detected signs of a possible weapons test near Sinpo, where the North has been pushing to build a 3,000-ton submarine capable of SLBM operations.

"The intelligence authorities of South Korea and the United States are currently conducting a thorough analysis regarding additional details on the missile," the JCS said in a text message sent to reporters.

The North's latest missile test marks its eighth known projectile launch this year. It previously fired a new hypersonic missile, called the Hwasong-8, on Sept. 28.

This file photo, released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency, shows a missile launch. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command condemned the missile launch, calling on the North to refrain from "any further destabilizing acts."

"While we have assessed that this event does not pose an immediate threat to U.S. personnel, territory, or that of our allies, we will continue to monitor the situation," the command said in a statement posted on its website.

"The U.S. commitment to the defense of the ROK and Japan remains ironclad," it added, referring to South Korea's official name, the Republic of Korea.

The launch came as the top nuclear envoys of the South, the U.S. and Japan are in Washington to discuss joint efforts to bring the North back to dialogue through humanitarian aid and other incentives.

Pyongyang's continued saber-rattling tempered cautious optimism that has emerged since the reactivation of inter-Korean communication channels earlier this month.

In Washington on Tuesday, Seoul's top nuclear envoy, Noh Kyu-duk, and his U.S. and Japanese counterparts, Sung Kim and Takehiro Funakoshi, plan to meet trilaterally to discuss a joint strategy on the North.

On Monday, Noh and Kim met bilaterally and discussed President Moon Jae-in's recent proposal for the declaration of a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War, which Seoul believes is an effective measure to build confidence with Pyongyang.

The U.S. envoy plans to visit Seoul later this week to further discuss diplomacy toward the North.

sshluck@yna.co.kr
(END)

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