North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and other officials watch a ballistic missile launch in this undated photo from the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and other officials watch a ballistic missile launch in this undated photo from the state-run Korean Central News Agency. (KCNA)

CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — North Korea launched at least one missile into the sea off its eastern coast, the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff announced on Tuesday morning.

The short-range projectile is believed to have been a submarine-launched ballistic missile, according to a military official who spoke to Stars and Stripes on the condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to discuss the details.

The official said an initial assessment indicated the missile flew over 360 miles at a maximum altitude of 37 miles.

No reports of injuries or damages from the 10:17 a.m. launch were reported by the Japan Coast Guard, according to an agency spokesman. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters his military detected two ballistic missiles and called it “extremely regrettable.”

South Korean military officials believe the missile was fired from Sinpo, home to a North Korean shipyard where analysts say the communist regime has been developing a ballistic missile submarine.

North Korea has been testing SLBMs for several years. In 2019, the regime tested an SLBM from an underwater platform that flew nearly 280 miles. South Korean military officials on Tuesday did not confirm whether the North's latest test originated from a newly developed submarine or a launch platform. North Korea did not release any announcement about its launch by Tuesday afternoon.

The South Korean presidential Blue House convened with its National Security Council in response to the launch and in a joint statement expressed “deep regret” over the North's latest weapons test.

The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command in a statement condemned the launch and called on North Korea “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 Tuesday afternoon.

The launch comes as several high-level discussions between Washington and Seoul about North Korea are expected this week.

The U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, Sung Kim, will be traveling to Seoul to discuss the possibility of declaring a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War, a move that South Korean President Moon Jae-in has advocated for since his presidential campaign.

North Korea’s latest launch comes as Avril Haines, the U.S. director of national intelligence, is scheduled to speak with South Korean and Japanese intelligence leaders throughout the week.

The U.S. has continued to offer North Korea a venue to hold discussions without preconditions. State Department spokesman Ned Price in September said the U.S. held “no hostile intent” toward the regime and that “we hope [North Korea] will respond positively to our outreach.”

North Korea addressed the recent overtures Tuesday and described the talks of formally ending the Korean War as untimely.

The U.S. “has not hesitated to make provocative remarks and actions” toward North Korea, the country’s state-run Echo of Unification news outlet said in an announcement.

Soo Kim, a policy analyst for Rand Corp. and an adjunct instructor at American University, said the recent launches amid the U.S. allies’ diplomatic meetings was one way for North Korea “to gain attention.”

“Perhaps Pyongyang wants to shape the outcome of the high-level talks,” Kim told Stars and Stripes in an interview Tuesday. “Or at the very least make sure that there is a fresh reminder for the U.S. as our senior officials discuss the North Korea issue with their counterparts this week.”

Kim added that the missile launches were “behavior we expect from North Korea.”

Pyongyang in recent weeks fired a barrage of missiles that has concerned analysts. It launched four between September and October, including a new anti-aircraft missile, a ballistic missile from a train, long-range cruise missiles capable of reaching Japan, and hypersonic short-range missile.

Stars and Stripes reporter Yoo Kyong Chang contributed to this report.

David Choi is based in South Korea and reports on the U.S. military and foreign policy. He served in the U.S. Army and California Army National Guard. He graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles.
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Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.

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