North Korea fires ballistic missile ahead of Kamala Harris visit

North Korean defectors deported back from South Korea in 2019

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North Korea has reportedly fired a ballistic missile toward the sea off its east coast, South Korea has stated. The move comes days ahead of US Vice President Kamala Harris’s visit to the region. 

The crucial information was shared by South Korea’s military which did not divulge more details about the missile.  

Reuters reported that South Korea’s defense ministry provided no other details about the launch, but Japan’s Coast Guard reported that the missile apparently landed less than 10 minutes after it reported the launch.

Ms Harris will discuss Taiwan security during bilateral meetings with the leaders of Japan and South Korea when she visits the region next week, a senior administration official said on Friday. 

Ms Harris’ trip will include stops in Japan and Seoul, the official said.

A day earlier, South Korea’s presidential office warned it had detected activity, suggesting North Korea was preparing to fire a submarine-launched ballistic missile, or SLBM, from its east coast city of Sinpo.

The missile appears to have landed outside of Japan’s exclusive economic zone, Japan broadcasting corporation, also known as NHK, reports.

North Korea has now fired 32 ballistic missiles in 2022, the most it has ever launched in a single year. 

The launches have featured both short-range missiles, which appear designed to evade the missile defenses of the United States and its allies in the region, and longer-range missiles, which are meant to target the US mainland.

US officials say North Korea has also made preparations to conduct its seventh nuclear test, a step that could dramatically raise regional tensions.

The United States says it is open to negotiations on North Korea’s nuclear program but has also increased its public displays of military strength in coordination with its ally, South Korea.

Earlier this week, some US-based think tanks also said North Korea could be preparing to conduct a submarine-launched ballistic missile test.

New satellite images revealed new construction and barges at the Sinpo South Shipyard on the east coast of the country, which is critical to North Korea’s new ballistic missile submarine (SSB).

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According to reports, six news barges and vessels were detected around the submarine construction hall which was not previously present, according to the 38 North, a programme of nonpartisan think tank Stimson Centre which monitors North Korea.

 

It is the first time a US aircraft carrier has visited South Korea in about four years. 

 

Earlier this month, the United States and South Korea wrapped up major joint military exercises, including live fire drills, for the first time since 2017.

 

The United States and South Korea began scaling back or spreading out such military drills in 2018 during a period of increased diplomacy with North Korea. 

 

The North walked away from those talks in 2019 and a short time later resumed missile tests.

 

North Korea has ignored US calls for dialogue, instead accusing the United States of conducting a hostile policy.

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