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North Korea draws criticism for another ballistic missile test

North Korea draws criticism for another ballistic missile test
North Korea launched a ballistic missile into the sea between South Korea and Japan on Tuesday. File photo by Jeong Heon-kyun/EPA-EFE

Oct. 18 (UPI) -- North Korea fired a ballistic missile into the East Sea on Tuesday, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said, amid trilateral strategy talks between Washington, Seoul and Tokyo.

The missile was launched eastward from South Hamgyong Province's coastal city of Sinpo and was detected at 10:17 a.m., the Joint Chiefs of Staff said but gave no further details, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported.

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The JCS told reporters in a text message that both South Korean and U.S. intelligence agencies were analyzing the launch, which occurred ahead of talks in Washington, D.C., between the United States, South Korea and Japan on North Korea's weapons build up.

Following the launch, South Korea's presidential Blue House convened a National Security Council meeting while Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who was campaigning in Akita Prefecture for the upcoming Japanese House of Representatives election, said he would return to Tokyo.

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"We will respond resolutely," he tweeted.

U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement that it was "aware" of the launch and was in close consultation with South Korea and Japan.

"The United States condemns these actions and calls on the DPRK to refrain from any further destabilizing acts," it said, referring to North Korea by the initials of its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. "While we have assessed that this event does not post an immediate threat to U.S. personnel, territory or that of our allies, we will continue to monitor the situation."

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The launch was North Korea's first this month following a barrage in September that included four new weapons.

North Korea has continued to develop its weaponry despite taking a softer stance with South Korea that analysts think may be an effort to drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington to gain concessions.

Early this month, North Korea resumed communications and military hotlines with South Korea after severing them in June of last year.

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South Korean President Moon Jae-in is also seeking a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War, which could lead to the resumption of denuclearization talks that have stalled since February of 2019.

Biden administration officials have repeatedly said they're willing to meet with their North Korean counterparts without preconditions.

South Korea's top nuclear envoy, Noh Kyu-duk, was in Washington, D.C., for meetings Tuesday with Sung Kim of the United States and Takehiro Funakoshi of Japan.

On Monday, Noh and Kim, the U.S. special representative for North Korea, met for bilateral talks concerning restarting negotiations with Pyongyang, South Korea's Arirang reported.

"The U.S. continues to reach out to Pyongyang to restart dialogue. Our intent remains the same. We harbor no hostile intent toward the DPRK, and we are open to meeting with them without preconditions," Kim said.

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Thomas Maresca contributed to this report.

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