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North Korea Launches Short-Range Ballistic Missile on New Year's Day, South Says


A man at a Seoul railway station walks past a television showing file footage of a North Korean missile test, Dec. 31, 2022 .
A man at a Seoul railway station walks past a television showing file footage of a North Korean missile test, Dec. 31, 2022 .

North Korea fired one short-range ballistic missile into the sea on Sunday, the South Korean military reported, as Pyongyang pressed on with last year's record-breaking blitz of launches.

The New Year's Day firing reported by the Yonhap news agency was the second in as many days.

It came from the Yongseong area of the capital Pyongyang and landed in the East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan, Yonhap said, quoting the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Military tensions on the Korean Peninsula rose sharply in 2022 as the North conducted sanctions-busting weapons tests nearly every month, including firing its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile ever.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff said it detected the latest launch at 2:50 a.m. local time (1750 GMT Saturday) and that the missile flew about 400 kilometers before splashing into the sea.

"Our military will maintain a solid readiness posture based on capabilities to respond overwhelmingly to any North Korean provocations," the JCS said in a text message sent to reporters, according to Yonhap.

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On Saturday, the North fired three short-range ballistic missiles, Seoul's military said, a day after South Korea successfully tested a solid-fuel space launch vehicle.

That North Korean launch also followed the incursion of five North Korean drones into the South's airspace earlier in the week.

Monday's North Korean drone incursion was the first such incident in five years and prompted an apology from Seoul's defense minister after the military failed to shoot down a single drone despite scrambling jets for a five-hour operation.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol called the incident intolerable and added that the South should ensure that Pyongyang realized that "provocations are always met with harsh consequences."

Seoul's military staged drills Thursday that the country's top brass said would improve its defenses against any future drone provocations.

And on Friday, South Korea successfully tested a new space launch vehicle as part of its drive to strengthen space-based reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities, the defense ministry said.

Pyongyang earlier this month said it conducted an "important final-stage" test for the development of a reconnaissance satellite, claiming it had developed advanced technologies to take images from space.

"The purpose of North Korea's missile launch today is to respond to Seoul's solid-fueled space launch vehicle. Pyongyang seems to be thinking of this as a competition," Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, told Agence France-Presse on Saturday.

North Korea is holding a major party meeting in Pyongyang at which leader Kim Jong Un and other senior party officials are outlining their policy goals for 2023 in key areas including diplomacy, security and the economy.

Earlier this year, Kim said he wanted his country to have the world's most powerful nuclear force and declared the North an "irreversible" nuclear state.

Full details of the current session are expected to be announced after it concludes.