Published:  12:47 PM, 28 September 2021

North Korea fires 'missile', insists on right to weapons tests

North Korea fires 'missile', insists on right to weapons tests

Nuclear-armed North Korea fired what

appeared to be a short-range missile into the sea on Tuesday, the South's
military said, as Pyongyang's UN ambassador insisted it had an undeniable
right to test its weapons.

   The device was fired from the northern province of Jagang into waters off
the east coast, according to the South's Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a
Japanese defence ministry spokesman told AFP it "appears to be a ballistic

   Less than an hour later, Pyongyang's United Nations ambassador Kim Song
told the UN General Assembly in New York: "Nobody can deny the right to self-
defence for the DPRK", the North's official name.

   It is the latest in a series of mixed messages from Pyongyang, coming days
after leader Kim Jong Un's influential sister Kim Yo Jong, a key adviser to
her brother, dangled the prospect of an inter-Korean summit.

   But she insisted that "impartiality" and mutual respect would be required,
calling for the South to "stop spouting an impudent remark".

   She condemned as "double standards" South Korean and US criticism of the
North's military developments, while the allies build up their own

   In recent days, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who has only months
left in office, reiterated at the UN General Assembly his longstanding calls
for a formal declaration of an end to the Korean War.

   The North invaded the South in 1950 and hostilities ceased three years
later with an armistice rather than a peace treaty, leaving them technically
still in a state of conflict.

   Pyongyang is under multiple sets of international sanctions over its
banned programmes to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

   In his own UN General Assembly speech, the North's Kim Song said the North
had a right to "develop, test, manufacture and possess" weapons systems
equivalent to those of the South and its US ally.

   "We are just building up our national defence in order to defend ourselves
and reliably safeguard the security and peace of the country," he said.

   - 'Heinous human rights abuser' -

   Pyongyang has already carried out several missile launches this month, one
involving long-range cruise missiles and another that the South's military
said was of short-range ballistic missiles.

   Seoul also successfully test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile
for the first time, making it one of a handful of nations with the advanced

   Talks between Pyongyang and Washington have been largely at a standstill
since a 2019 summit in Hanoi between leader Kim and then-president Donald
Trump collapsed over sanctions relief and what the North would be willing to
give up in return.

   The North has since then repeatedly excoriated the South and its president
Moon, and blown up a liaison office on its side of the border that Seoul had

   After an emergency meeting, the South's National Security Committee issued
a statement Tuesday saying it "expressed regret for the launch at a time when
political stability on the Korean Peninsula is very critical".

   Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies, told
AFP: "It looks like North Korea wants to see how genuine Seoul is when it
comes to its willingness to improve inter-Korean ties -- and to officially
end the Korean War."

   "Pyongyang will monitor and study Moon's reaction after today's launch and
decide on what they want to do on things such as restoring the inter-Korean
hotline," he added.

   Washington stations around 28,500 troops in the South to defend it against
its neighbour and protect US interests in northeast Asia.

   The administration of US President Joe Biden has repeatedly said that it
is willing to meet North Korean officials anywhere, at any time, without
preconditions, in its efforts to seek denuclearisation.

   But the North has not shown any willingness to give up its arsenal, which
it says it needs to defend itself against a US invasion.

   On Monday, the North's official Korean Central News Agency carried an
article calling the United States "the most heinous human rights abuser in
the world" for its sanctions policies on various countries.

   The North was also due to open a session of its rubber-stamp parliament,
the Supreme People's Assembly, on Tuesday.

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