N.Korea fires ballistic missile off east coast (Ld)

Seoul, May 7 (IANS) North Korea fired an apparent submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) off its east coast on Saturday, South Korea’s military said.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said it detected the launch in waters off the North’s eastern coastal city of Sinpo at 2.07 p.m. and that the missile flew some 600 km at a top altitude of about 60 km, reports Yonhap News Agency.

The latest launch marks the North’s 15th show of force this year. It came just three days after the reclusive regime test-fired what was thought to be an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and also ahead of the inauguration of South Korea’s new President Yoon Suk-yeol.

“The North’s recent series of missile launches are acts of serious threat that undermine peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the international community, and a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions,” the JCS said in a statement, urging Pyongyang to immediately stop them.

During a military parade last month, the North showcased a set of SLBMs, including a “mini-SLBM” that it claimed to have successfully test-fired from a submarine in October last year.

The SLBM is a bedrock asset for nuclear retaliation as a submarine carrying it can operate undetected, launch counterstrikes and thus allow a country to survive an enemy’s preemptive attack.

At the parade, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un hinted his country could use nuclear arms in case of encroachment on its “fundamental rights,” raising speculation he is shifting to a more aggressive doctrine for nuclear use.

Concerns have persisted that the North could continue to engage in provocations, such as another ICBM launch or a nuclear test, particularly around Yoon’s inauguration slated for Tuesday or his summit with US President Joe Biden scheduled for May 21.