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The South Korean military has confirmed that North Korea has launched a submarine-launched ballistic missile into waters off the coast of Japan.

File footage of the missile seen in South Korea

South Korean and Japanese officials confirmed the launch, which came after US and South Korean envoys met in Washington on Monday to discuss the nuclear stalemate with North Korea. On Tuesday, spy chiefs from the United States, South Korea, and Japan were said to be meeting in Seoul.

The launch would be North Korea’s latest weapons test, as the country has continued to expand its arsenal despite international restrictions imposed over its nuclear and missile programs. The missile was fired at 10:17 a.m. local time from the sea near Sinpo, where North Korea has submarines and equipment for test launching SLBMs, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. It wasn’t clear whether the missile was launched from a submarine or a submersible test barge, like in prior tests.

“Our military is closely watching the situation and keeping a readiness posture in close coordination with the US in preparation for possible further launches,” JCS said in a statement. According to Yonhap news agency, citing an unknown source, the missile flew roughly 430-450 kilometers and reached a maximum altitude of 60 kilometers.

Kim Dong-yup, a professor at Kyungnam University’s Far East Institute in Seoul and a former South Korean Navy officer, believes the latest test likely employed one of North Korea’s recently disclosed SLBMs. During military parades in October and January, the North showcased new Pukguksong-4 missiles, and a previously unseen, smaller missile was spotted at Pyongyang’s defense fair last week.

According to Yonhap, which cited a government source, the launch occurred as the intelligence chiefs of the United States, South Korea, and Japan were scheduled to meet in Seoul to discuss the tension with North Korea, among other matters. Sung Kim, the US special representative for North Korea, has announced that he will visit Seoul this week for discussions.

After meeting with his South Korean counterpart in Washington on Monday, Kim stated, “The US continues to reach out to Pyongyang to restart dialogue.” “We have no aggressive intentions against (North Korea) and are willing to engage with them without restrictions.”

According to observers, North Korea’s recent missile tests appear to be geared at matching or surpassing South Korea’s quietly developing arsenal. South Korea successfully tested an SLBM last month, making it the first country without nuclear weapons to do so. On the same day, North Korea tested a missile launched from a train. In the midst of a spiraling weapons race, the two Koreas hosted dueling defense shows this month to show off their latest equipment.

Despite the fact that analysts believe the South Korean rocket has few military uses, such launches are unlikely to be welcomed in North Korea, which has complained of a double standard in which its own space program is attacked outside as a front for military missile development.

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