North Korea Missile Launch Poses No Immediate Threat, U.S. Military Says

The United States, South Korea and Japan separately confirmed suspected ballistic missile tests by North Korea on Wednesday, shortly after China's top diplomat met with senior government officials in Seoul and called for peace on the Korean Peninsula.

In a brief press release, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said: "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."

USINDOPACOM said Washington was "consulting closely" with allies and reaffirmed defense commitments to Seoul and Tokyo.

The South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said it had detected "two unidentified ballistic missiles" fired by the North into the East Sea, according to AFP. Seoul said the projectiles traveled about 500 miles at an altitude of just under 40 miles. They were the first such launches since Pyongyang conducted similar tests in March.

A Japanese coast guard assessment said the missiles launched into the Sea of Japan did not land in the country's territorial waters or its exclusive economic zone, The Japan Times reported.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told reporters that the apparent missile test "threatened the peace and safety of Japan and the region," according to The Associated Press. Suga called the launch "absolutely outrageous."

Leaders in South Korea and Japan reportedly convened emergency National Security Council meetings to discuss the latest developments, which the Chinese government is yet to publicly address.

The test-firings took place after China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi met his counterpart in Seoul, Chung Eui-yong, and then sat for a 40-minute session with South Korean President Moon Jae-in as part of a weeklong tour of Asia.

Chung requested China's continued support for the Korean Peninsula peace process, Reuters said, while Moon asked Beijing to help restart stalled dialogue between Pyongyang and representatives from Seoul and Washington.

Over the weekend, the North's official Korean Central News Agency confirmed the successful launch of a new type of "long-range cruise missile," calling it a "strategic weapon of great significance" that flew over 900 miles in a two-hour flight.

Asked about the weekend's tests on Wednesday, Wang avoided direct criticism of its North Korean ally, calling instead for all countries to contribute to "peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula."

On Monday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry asked all parties to "exercise restraint."

The North is under international sanctions for its nuclear and ballistic weapons programs but is not barred from conducting cruise missile tests. Its nonproliferation talks with the U.S.—linked to demands that sanctions on Pyongyang be lifted—broke down in 2019 following a summit in Vietnam between North Korea's Kim Jong Un and former President Donald Trump.

North Korea Test-fires Ballistic Missiles
A man watches a television news broadcast showing file footage of a North Korean missile test, at a railway station in Seoul on September 15, 2021, after North Korea fired two ballistic missiles into the sea, according to the South's military. JUNG YEON-JE/AFP via Getty Images