North Korea launches ballistic missile a day after agreeing to US talks

Originally Published: 02 OCT 19 00:28 ET
Updated: 02 OCT 19 03:50 ET

(CNN) -- North Korea fired a ballistic missile Wednesday from an underwater launch platform, a United States official told CNN, a day after Pyongyang and Washington agreed to resume nuclear talks.

The US assessed that the missile was not fired from a submarine although the tested missile is designed to function as a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), the US official, who was familiar with the situation, said.

The missile was launched toward the East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan, Wednesday morning, South Korea's military said. While North Korea has launched from an underwater platform before, it is the first time it has done so since talks with US President Donald Trump.

"Currently, our forces are maintaining readiness posture while watching related movements in preparation against additional launches," South Korea's Joint Chief of Staff said in a statement Wednesday.

South Korea said it was analyzing the incident "with the emphasis on the possibility that today's launch by North Korea is a test of a SLBM," a statement from the Blue House, South Korea's presidential office, said.

The missile was launched from near Wonsan, a city in Kangwon Province on North Korea's east coast and flew for a distance of 450 kilometers (280 miles) before landing in waters off Japan. It reached an altitude of 910 kilometers (565 miles) and is presumed to be a Pukkuksong missile, the JCS statement said.

Japan said Wednesday that North Korea launched one ballistic missiles that split into two pieces after launch. One of the pieces reached its Economic Exclusive Zone off Shimane prefecture at 7:26 a.m. local time, according to Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga. No damage has been reported so far.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the press from his residences that the launch of a ballistic missile was in violation of the United Nations resolution and that Japan would "lodge stern protests against it and condemn such actions."

Launch signals

Commercial satellite images obtained by CNN in September appeared to show that North Korea may be close to launching a submarine capable of firing missiles and is making efforts to conceal its preparations.

The images from the Middlebury Institute and Planet Labs, appear to show North Korea making progress readying the vessel at the Sinpo South Naval Shipyard along the central coast of the country off the Sea of Japan.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited the base in July to inspect progress on the submarine, which may already be operational, according to analysts.

At an NSC senior committee emergency meeting Wednesday, officials "expressed their strong concerns that North Korea has tested this missile ahead of resumption of negotiation with the US on Oct 5," the statement continued. The NSC said it was working closely with the US to investigate the nature of the launch.

The launch happened a day after the US state department said that Washington and Pyongyang plan to resume working-level talks next week.

Negotiations on denuclearization have stalled since February, when Trump cut short his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi. Trump left the meeting with no joint agreement after Kim insisted all US sanctions be lifted on his country.

The last time the two leaders met was in June in the Korean Demilitarized Zone where they agreed to revive staff-level talks.

Earlier this week, former US national security adviser John Bolton said he didn't believe Pyongyang would willingly surrender its nuclear weapons.

In his first public remarks since leaving his former role in the Trump administration three weeks ago, Bolton said Kim will "do whatever he can" to keep a nuclear weapons capability.

A US official with knowledge of the initial reports of a North Korean launch told CNN that the test was not a surprise. The US was expecting a likely North Korean test launch because there was evidence of preparations underway at launch sites. The source said this launch appears to be similar to recent launches by North Korea.

After more than a year of refraining from missile tests, Kim's regime has conducted 11 launches since May including Wednesday's. Most of those are believed to be short-range missiles, and experts say they have shown impressive technological advancements.

Trump has played down Pyongyang's series of short-range ballistic missile tests, saying that the US never restricted short-range missiles, though the launches violate UN Security Council resolutions.

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