North Korea opens the new year with a rocket launch

North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile at its eastern waters on Sunday, entering 2023 with another weapons test after firing an unprecedented number of missiles last year.

South Korea’s military spotted the launch from the north’s capital region around 2:50 a.m. Sunday, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. The missile was said to have flown about 400 kilometers (250 miles) before crashing into the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff called the launch “a grave provocation” violating peace and security on the Korean peninsula and around the world. It said South Korea is closely monitoring North Korean moves in coordination with the United States and is ready to deal with provocations.

The US Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement that the launch “highlighted the destabilizing effect” of North Korea’s illicit weapons programs. It said US commitments to defend South Korea and Japan “remain unwavering”.

North Korea tested more than 70 missiles last year. Some experts say the country is ultimately aiming to increase its weapon arsenals and increase pressure on its rivals to secure concessions such as lifting sanctions.

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