All national papers took up the Defense Ministry announcement yesterday that what appeared to be a short-range ballistic missile was fired from northeast North Korea in the direction of the Sea of Japan in the morning. The militaries of the United States, South Korea, and Japan are reportedly probing the latest launch that followed another one on Sept. 15. According to Yomiuri, the projectile apparently failed to reach the ocean and fell on land mid-flight, while Sankei conjectured that North Korea may have been testing a new type of short-range ballistic missile in commemoration of the opening of its de facto parliament on the same day. According to NHK, the DPRK’s Korean Central News Agency reported this morning that North Korea test-fired a hypersonic missile for the first time on Tuesday.
MOFA Asian and Oceanian Affairs Director General Funakoshi and U.S. Representative for North Korea Kim spoke by phone later in the day to confirm close coordination in dealing with the latest provocation. A State Department spokesperson reportedly condemned the missile launch, underscoring that it violated several UN Security Council resolutions and posed a threat to the region and the international community. The official added at the same time that the Biden administration will continue seeking dialogue with the Kim regime.
Yomiuri speculated that Pyongyang is escalating provocations by capitalizing on ROK President Moon’s recent proposal to issue a joint declaration on ending the Korean War, projecting that the Kim regime may continue testing missiles until the Biden administration agrees to ease sanctions. Sankei conjectured that the DPRK is perhaps trying to drive a wedge between the United States and South Korea based on the assessment that the ROK leader is anxious to reopen inter-Korea dialogue before he steps down next May. Pointing out that the Trump administration’s response to the North’s firing of short-range missiles was muted, the daily noted that Pyongyang may be keen to gauge whether the Moon administration will take a concerted line with the Biden administration’s tougher approach toward DPRK provocations.