South Korea’s military has claimed that North Korea has launched an unidentified projectile toward the sea off its east coast, amid reports that the US intends to seek new anti-Pyongyang sanctions at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
Seoul’s declaration on Wednesday of a possible missile launch by the North would mark Pyongyang’s 14th weapons test so far this year if confirmed and comes nearly a week after North Korea announced plans to develop its nuclear forces “at the fastest possible speed.”
Details of the alleged launch, including the flight range and altitude of the projectile, were not immediately available, amid reports that Japan’s Coast Guard has described it as a possible ballistic missile.
The development comes just days before South Korea’s newly-elected conservative President Yoon Suk-yeol takes office.
On Saturday, Kim called on Pyongyang’s military brass to “maintain the absolute superiority” of North Korean armed forces so that they could “preemptively and thoroughly contain and frustrate all dangerous attempts and threatening moves, including ever-escalating nuclear threats from hostile forces, if necessary.”
Kim’s latest remarks followed a strong statement released by his influential sister earlier this month in which she blasted South Korea’s defense minister for touting preemptive strike capabilities against the North and insisted that her country’s nuclear forces would annihilate the South’s conventional forces if provoked.
US to stage UNSC vote to impose further bans on North Korea
Meanwhile, US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield announced on Tuesday that Washington would like the UNSC to vote this month to impose more sanctions against Pyongyang over its renewed ballistic missile launches.
The United States circulated an initial draft resolution among the 15 members of the council last month that called for banning tobacco, cutting oil exports to North Korea by half, and blacklisting the Lazarus hacking group.
“It is our plan to move forward with that resolution during this month,” Thomas-Greenfield told reporters when asked if she would put it to a vote. The US holds the rotating presidency of the UNSC in May.
“We’re very concerned about the situation,” she further claimed. “It is our hope that we can keep the council unified in condemning those actions by the DPRK (North Korea).”
However, Russia and China have already signaled opposition to boosting sanctions in response to Pyongyang’s March launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, which was its first since 2017.
North Korea has been subjected to US-led sanctions since 2006, which the UNSC has persistently intensified over the years in purported efforts to cut off funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
Pyongyang, however, has successfully worked to evade some UN sanctions, according to independent UN sanctions monitors, who reported in February that North Korean cyberattacks on cryptocurrency exchanges were earning the country hundreds of millions of dollars.