North Korea conducted another missile test Tuesday, its third in a month. The test occurred minutes before a North Korean ambassador spoke at the United Nations, where he accused South Korea of hostility.
The North launched the missile toward the sea off its east coast at about 6:40 a.m. local time on Tuesday, according to South Korea’s military, which monitors such launches.
Japanese defense officials said the test appeared to involve a single ballistic missile.
South Korea’s military said the missile is “presumed to be short-range” and was launched from Mupyong-ri in the North's province of Jagang. That is the same area from which North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic missile in July of 2017.
The United States condemned the missile launch, calling it a “violation of multiple U.N. Security Council Resolutions” and “a threat to the DPRK’s neighbors and the international community.”
“We remain committed to a diplomatic approach to the DPRK and call on them to engage in dialogue,” a State Department spokesperson said in a statement Tuesday. “Our commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan remains ironclad.”
Since it resumed ballistic missile launches in 2019, North Korea has typically launched two missiles at a time. Most of those launches have involved short-range missiles, many from systems that can launch multiple weapons at once.
A single launch could indicate a longer-range missile, some defense analysts speculated, though there is no evidence that is the case. The North typically does not announce the details of its weapons tests until the following morning in state media.
News of the launch came as North Korea's United Nations ambassador delivered a speech at the U.N. General Assembly in New York. In his speech, North Korea's U.N. ambassador, Kim Song, defended his country's nuclear missile advancement, calling it a response to the "hostile policy" of the United States and South Korea.
"Nobody can deny the righteous right to self-defense for (North Korea) to develop, test, manufacture and possess the weapons systems equivalent to the ones which are possessed or being developed by" the United States and South Korea, Kim said.
The North Korean ambassador also condemned the presence of U.S. troops in South Korea, recent U.S.-South Korea military exercises and South Korea's recent military buildup.
It is not clear whether the missile test was intentionally timed to coincide with the U.N. speech. But analysts said it was notable the launch came days after North Korea had hinted it was open to dialogue with South Korea.
"North Korea employs emotional blackmail as a form of leverage, alternating between provocation and charm — especially with the South Koreans," said Jean Lee, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Wilson Center.
Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, said Sunday the North is open to an inter-Korean summit and declaring a formal end to the Korean War if South Korea first ends its "hostile policy" and "double standards" to the North.
Her comments came in response to a speech last week by South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who reiterated his call for an end to the war, a symbolic step he hopes will spur progress in wider peace talks.
"It's been a few weeks of whiplash for the South Koreans, from missile tests designed to create a sense of tension followed by glimmers of hope, and then dashing those hopes again with silence and more provocation. It's gaslighting, and the North Koreans are expert at using this emotional manipulation to create a sense of uncertainty and anxiety in Seoul," Lee said.
"It will be a test of Seoul's resolve to remain steadfast and to employ principled diplomacy, as well as patience," she added.
Earlier this month, North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles from a train. Those missiles landed in Japan's exclusive economic zone. Two days before that, the North conducted a long-range cruise missile launch. Both tests used technology meant to make it more difficult for the United States and others to monitor, detect and defend against North Korea's missile arsenal.
South Korea has also been developing and testing its own new ballistic missile technology. Earlier this month, the South became just the seventh country to have successfully tested a homegrown submarine-launched ballistic missile.
VOA State Department Bureau Chief Nike Ching contributed to this story.