It is the 15th show of force this year for the nuclear-armed country, which also launched an intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time since 2017.
This new launch comes before the new South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol takes office on Tuesday, favorable to the balance of power with the North, and accentuates fears of an escalation.
The US State Department warned on Friday that a nuclear test could take place “from this month”based on satellite imagery.
“Our military detected around 07:07) that a short range ballistic missile presumed to be an SLBM was fired from the sea off Sinpo, South Hamgyong”the South Korean army general staff said in a statement on Saturday.
An object “likely to be a ballistic missile”
Sinpo is an important naval base in North Korea. Satellite images have shown the presence of submarines there in the past.
According to the Japanese Coast Guard, citing their Ministry of Defense, Pyongyang launched an object “likely to be a ballistic missile”.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pledged to develop his nuclear forces in a grand military parade last week “as quickly as possible” and warned of possible strikes “preventive”mentioned by the future South Korean president, Yoon Suk-yeol.
On Friday, Washington, through the voice of the spokeswoman for diplomacy Jalina Porter, warned that Pyongyang “preparing the Punggye-ri test site and may be ready to conduct a test there as early as this month, which would be its seventh test” nuclear.
“This analysis is consistent with recent public statements made by North Korea itself.”she added, assuring that the American government had shared it with its allies and was going “continue” its “close coordination with them”.
A trip to South Korea and Japan for Biden
US President Joe Biden is due to visit Japan and South Korea this month, where concerns about Pyongyang will be on the menu.
The latest missile launch could be linked to this visit or to the inauguration Tuesday of Mr. Yoon, who has promised an inflexible line facing the North.
“Instead of accepting invitations to dialogue, the Kim regime appears to be preparing to test a tactical nuclear warhead.” says Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.
North Korea had conducted six nuclear tests before engaging in high-level diplomacy with the United States, with then-US President Donald Trump meeting four times with Kim Jong Un.
Towards a seventh nuclear test
“A seventh nuclear test would be the first since September 2017 and would fuel tensions on the Korean peninsula, increasing the dangers of miscalculation and miscommunication between the Kim regime and the future Yoon administration.”added Mr. Easley.
South Korea has more conventional weapons capacity than its northern neighbor and Mr. Yoon called for the deployment of more US military assets.
South Korea tested its own ballistic sea-to-surface missile in 2021, becoming one of the few countries to master this technology. She also unveiled a supersonic cruise missile, highlighting an arms race on the peninsula.
On Wednesday, Pyongyang launched what Seoul and Tokyo described as a ballistic missile, but North Korean state media, which usually reports on the weapons tests, did not report on it.
Hong Min, a researcher at the Korea Institute for National Unification, thought Saturday “that today’s launch is similar to Wednesday’s ballistic missile.”
“It seems that the North is carrying out a series of tests to achieve its strategic objectives”he added.
Negotiations to convince Kim Jong Un to give up nuclear weapons came to nothing.
For five years, South Korean President Moon Jae-in pursued a policy of dialogue with Pyongyang, but according to his successor, this “servile” approach was a clear failure.
According to analysts, Kim Jong Un may want to warn, through this series of tests, that he is not open to dialogue with the new government.