All national dailies reported on the ROK military’s announcement that North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles toward the Sea of Japan on Wednesday. Defense Minister Kishi told reporters the missiles are believed to have landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone, correcting earlier information that the projectiles apparently landed outside the area. Kishi said further analysis showed that they both fell in waters off the Noto Peninsula, Ishikawa Prefecture, after reaching an altitude of about 50 km and flying around 750 km on an irregular trajectory. They were the first ballistic missiles to be launched by North Korea since March 25 and the first to land in Japan’s EEZ since October 2019. Meanwhile, NHK reported this morning that North Korea’s state-run paper announced North Korea test-fired a “railway-borne missile” on Wednesday, saying that the missile successfully hit a target 800 km away from the launch site on the Sea of Japan. The network said it is unclear whether the missile is the same as those confirmed to have landed inside Japan’s EEZ yesterday.
Nikkei speculated that the DPRK launched the missiles in response to South Korea’s first successful underwater test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile. Yomiuri and Sankei conjectured that the move was intended to send a warning to the Biden administration, which continues to impose sanctions on Pyongyang, and to extract concessions from Washington. The papers pointed out that the missiles were fired immediately after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi held talks with President Moon in Seoul.
Yomiuri wrote that Special Representative for North Korea Ambassador Sung Kim and MOFA Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau Director-General Funakoshi held an unscheduled meeting in response to North Korea’s ballistic missile launches and agreed that the United States and Japan will jointly deal with the DPRK’s provocations. The paper also wrote that a State Department press officer said in a statement on Wednesday that North Korea’s launches constituted a threat to its neighbors, adding that the United States remains committed to a diplomatic approach to the DPRK and calls on the nation to engage in dialogue. Mainichi wrote that the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command released a statement saying in part: “While we have assessed that this event does not pose an immediate threat to U.S. personnel or territory, or to our allies, the missile launch highlights the destabilizing impact of the DPRK’s illicit weapons program.”
Yomiuri and Mainichi wrote that according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency, Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, issued a statement on Wednesday about South Korean President Moon’s remarks that the South’s new missile systems can deter North Korea. Kim’s statement said in part that if Moon continues to “slander” the North, it will inevitably result in counteractions, which will then be sure to lead to the complete destruction of relations between North and South Korea.