North Korea resumes weapons-testing operation, fires ballistic missile
North Korea on Sunday launched a ballistic missile toward the sea off its east coast in its eighth missile test of the year, the South Korean military said.
North Korea launched a ballistic missile on Sunday, according to Seoul, restarting its weapons-testing operation after a month of relative calm during the Beijing Winter Olympics and while the world's attention is focused on Ukraine.
Pyongyang has launched eight missiles this year, including a test-firing of its most powerful missile since high-profile talks between Kim Jong Un and then-US President Donald Trump collapsed in 2017. Diplomacy has been in decline since then.
Despite harsh international sanctions, Pyongyang has increased its military spending and threatened to end a self-imposed embargo on firing long-range and nuclear weapons last month.
Pyongyang was generally expected to use the US preoccupation over Russia's special military operation in Ukraine on Thursday to launch further tests, according to analysts.
The South Korean military says it detected a ballistic missile fired from Pyongyang toward the Sea of Japan around 07:52 local time (22:52 GMT Saturday).
"The latest ballistic missile has a range of around 300 kilometers and an altitude of around 620 kilometers and details are under close analysis by South Korean and US intelligence," it added. Japan also confirmed the launch.
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South Korea's presidential Blue House expressed "deep concern and grave regret," and criticized the timing "when the world is making efforts to resolve the Ukraine war."
"With the US interest shifted to Europe over the Ukraine crisis and the UN Security Council unable to function, Pyongyang is seizing the opportunity," Shin Beom-Chul, a researcher at the Korea Research Institute for National Strategy, told AFP.
He claimed that North Korea sees this as an ideal time to "continue its development of necessary weapons and strengthen its nuclear arsenal" in order to be acknowledged as a nuclear power.
The recent pause in testing during the Beijing Winter Olympics was interpreted as a show of respect for China, a crucial diplomatic partner, and economic backer.
The latest rollout coincides with South Korea's upcoming presidential election on March 9.
Under Joe Biden, the US has frequently claimed it is open to meeting with North Korean officials while still pledging to pursue denuclearization while maintaining its and its allies' nuclear capabilities.
Pyongyang, on the other hand, has rebuffed the offer, accusing the US of pursuing "hostile" policies.