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North Korea Launches 2nd Ballistic Missile in a Week, South Korea Says

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SEOUL — North Korea launched a ballistic missile off its east coast on ​Tuesday, its second weapons test in a week​, as the United Nations Security Council met to discuss the country’s growing missile threat.

​The South Korean military said its analysts, as well as United States officials, were studying the trajectory and other flight data of the North Korean test to learn more about the missile.

North Korea​ conducted ​its last missile test on Wednesday, when it launched what it called a hypersonic missile​ off its east coast. ​ But the South Korean military dismissed the claim, saying that the weapon was a common ballistic missile.

The North’s test on Wednesday was its second test of such a weapon since September. The tests are in violation of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions ​that ban North Korea from developing or testing ballistic missiles or nuclear devices.

North Korea’s actions on Tuesday local time occurred as the Security Council met at the U.N. headquarters in New York to discuss the country’s last ballistic missile test​, which envoys from the United States, Japan, France, Britain and two other countries called “a threat to international peace and security.”

“​Each missile launch serves not only to advance the D.P.R.K.’s own capabilities, but to expand the suite of weapons available for export to its illicit arms clients and dealers around the world​,” the envoys said in a joint statement, using the acronym for​ the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “The D.P.R.K. makes these military investments at the expense of the well-being of the North Korean people. ​”​

​The envoys urged the council to ​”​stand united in opposing the D.P.R.K.’s ongoing, destabilizing and unlawful actions​,” and called on all U.N. member states to “fulfill their sanctions obligations under the Security Council resolutions.”

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan told reporters on Tuesday morning, “It is extremely regrettable that North Korea launched a missile in this situation.”

North Korea has not tested any long-range missiles of the kind that could directly threaten the continental United States since it conducted three intercontinental ballistic missile tests in 2017. But since attempts at diplomacy by its leader, Kim Jong-un, with President Donald J. Trump collapsed in 2019, the country has resumed testing mostly short-range missiles, including ones launched from trains rolled out of tunnels​.

Those tests indicated that the North was developing more sophisticated ways of delivering nuclear and other warheads to South Korea, Japan and American bases, according to defense analysts. ​ Some of the missiles it has tested since 2019 have used solid fuel and have made midair maneuvers​, making them harder to intercept, defense analysts said.

After the I.C.B.M. tests in 2017, Mr. Kim claimed that his country had the ability to launch a nuclear strike against the continental United States. Then he met Mr. Trump three times between 2018 and 2019 to push the United States to ease sanctions​ imposed under Security Council resolutions. ​

The Kim-Trump diplomacy collapsed without an agreement on rolling back the North’s nuclear weapons program or lifting international sanctions.

During a five-day Workers’ Party meeting that ended on Dec. 31 in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, Mr. Kim said conditions in his country demanded “bolstering the state defense capability” without “a moment’s delay.”

But he also said his country should focus on alleviating chronic food shortages — a problem that he inherited from ​Kim Jong-il, ​his father​ and ​predecessor, who died 10 years ago​, ​and which the North has yet to fix.

North Korea ​remains extremely wary of any contact with the outside world during the coronavirus pandemic, and has claimed no cases of the virus in the country, which outside experts have questioned.

Rick Gladstone contributed reporting from New York, and Motoko Rich from Tokyo.



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