North Korea Tests Weapon in Sea of Japan as DIA Warns of Long-range Missile Risk

South Korean military officials have said that North Korea launched an unidentified projectile into South Korea's eastern waters in the Sea of Japan.

The launch follows a recent streak of weapons testing from North Korea since the start of the year. The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) has warned that the country wants to launch a long-range missile in the coming year. Such a launch would represent a major security risk to South Korea, Japan and other U.S. allies in eastern Asia.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff didn't say what North Korea's fired projectile was or how far they believed it had traveled, the Associated Press reported. However, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said North Korea fired off two ballistic missiles. The Japanese government had pledged to gather more information about the launch.

North Korea has conducted six missile tests since January. In doing so, the country has violated multiple United Nations (UN) weapons sanctions banning it from developing ballistic missiles, The New York Times reported.

North Korea South Korea unidentified projectile launch
South Korea’s military has said that North Korea fired an unidentified projectile to its eastern waters. In this photo, people watch a TV at the Seoul Railway Station in South Korea as the TV displays a file image of a North Korean missile launch, on September 15, 2021 in Seoul, South Korea. Chung Sung-Jun/Getty

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pledged to strengthen his country's nuclear capabilities following the departure of former U.S. President Donald Trump. While current U.S. President Joe Biden has warned of "responses" if North Korea escalates tensions in the region, he hasn't publicly issued any.

Last Friday, a DIA report said that North Korea may test long-range ballistic missile tests over the next year. The report warned that the country will likely pose a "critical security challenge" for the U.S. and its allies in years to come.

"Building the national nuclear force was a strategic and predominant goal [for North Korea]," Kim Jong Un said during his remarks at the 8th Workers Party Congress, the report said. "The status of our state as a nuclear weapons state... enabled it to bolster its powerful and reliable strategic deterrent for coping with any threat by providing a perfect nuclear shield."

North Korean leaders view nuclear arms as "critical to regime survival," the report said.

By the end of 2017, Kim claimed that his country had the ability to launch a nuclear strike against the continental United States. During the Trump presidency, the country agreed to a moratorium on its nuclear testing. But overall, Trump failed to get North Korea to commit to slowing its nuclear program.

North Korea has reportedly not conducted a nuclear test since September 2017. The South Korean military has said the country remains years away from matching the military might of countries like the United States or Russia.

In January 2021, the country unveiled a new submarine-launched ballistic missile that it called "the world's most powerful weapon." International political experts told the aforementioned publication the country likely unveiled the weapon as a demonstration of the country's growing arsenal just as Biden took office.

In September, North Korean media said the country had tested a new hypersonic missile, a train-based ballistic missile and a new long-range cruise missile, the BBC reported.

That same month, experts at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that North Korea's nuclear program has gone "full steam ahead." The country currently has the continued capacity to enrich uranium and take additional steps towards developing nuclear weapons.

Newsweek contacted the DIA for comment.