North Korea has fired a newly developed anti-aircraft missile, state media said, the second-known test in a week, even as it makes reconciliatory overtures towards South Korea.
The test took place on Thursday, two days after the country launched a previously unseen hypersonic missile.
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The anti-aircraft missile had a “remarkable combat performance” and included twin rudder controls and other new technologies, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.
A picture in the official Rodong Sinmun newspaper showed the missile ascending at an angle into the sky from a launch vehicle.
North Korea resumed its missile tests in September after a six-month lull, firing a nuclear-capable cruise missile and then a pair of railway-borne ballistic missiles.
South Korea, Japan and the United States typically reveal North Korean missile tests soon after they are carried out, but they did not report Thursday’s incident, suggesting it may not be considered a significant weapons test.
South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense told the AFP news agency it was unable to immediately confirm the latest launch.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appears to have not attended the test, which was instead overseen by Pak Jong Chon, a member of the ruling Workers’ Party’s powerful Politburo and Central Committee.
“The remarkable combat performance of the new-type anti-aircraft missile with features of rapid responsiveness and guidance accuracy of missile control system as well as the substantial increase in the distance of downing air targets has been verified,” KCNA said, citing the Academy of Defence Science, a military weapons developer.
North Korea has been developing increasingly sophisticated weapons saying it wants to boost its defensive capabilities amid a “hostile” United States and South Korea.
Talks over denuclearisation have been stalled since 2019, and Pyongyang has long used weapons tests to ratchet up tensions and try to push forward its diplomatic and strategic objectives.
Some experts say North Korea is pressuring South Korea not to criticise its ballistic missile tests, which are banned by UN Security Council resolutions, as part of its quest to secure international recognition as a nuclear power.
Others say the North wants the South to persuade the United States to ease crippling economic sanctions. It also wants to get closer to South Korean President Moon Jae-in who is keen to secure his legacy before he leaves office next year.
On Wednesday, Kim said he had no reasons to attack South Korea and was willing to reopen severed inter-Korean hotlines, but that Washington’s repeated offers of talks without preconditions were a “petty trick”, accusing the administration of US President Joe Biden of continuing the “hostile policy” of its predecessors.
With its latest actions, Pyongyang was looking to “highlight their presence on the world stage and their military capabilities”, defector-turned-researcher Ahn Chan-il told AFP.
Moon used his recent address to the United Nations to reiterate his calls for a formal declaration of the end of the Korean War – fighting ended in 1953 with an armistice rather than a peace treaty.
Ahn said: “They are buying time this way and trying to leverage as much as they can from Seoul’s proposal to declare the official end of the Korean War, as well as Washington’s offer to talk without any preconditions.”
The latest tests have sparked international condemnation, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying they created “greater prospects for instability and insecurity”.
The United States, Britain and France have called a UN Security Council meeting on North Korea, which is set to take place on Friday.