A North Korean submarine on Tuesday fired a ballistic missile, a key development that will add to fears that the regime is making progress in developing a long-range missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland. The missile reportedly flew about 620 miles, making it North Korea’s longest-range launch from a submarine. The missile was launched in the country’s western waters about 8 p.m. local time, Jong Hyun, a spokesman for the Korean People’s Army said in a televised news conference. The missile landed in the ocean east of the Korean Peninsula and did not explode, the spokesman said.
The move comes just days after North Korea agreed to hold its first high-level talks with South Korea in more than two years. “It is quite ironic that North Korea sent its top military brass for the talks without sending any media,” said Hong Min, senior fellow at Seoul’s Korea Institute for National Unification. “This was an uncommon message, and it was the message of the military that the North won’t stop its missile and nuclear weapon programs.”
In announcing the talks earlier this week, Kim said that North Korea will work toward the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula. The country also announced that it will open the Kaesong Industrial Complex, once one of the largest industrial parks in the world, to South Korean officials. It will close the complexes on Sept. 15, which is in line with the North’s Labor Day holiday.
It is not clear if North Korea is offering concessions to the South as part of an agreement that could end its nuclear program. South Korea and the U.S. still believe that the North must denuclearize as a precondition for any such talks.
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