March 17, 2022
SEOUL – North Korea on Wednesday fired an unidentified projectile, in its first launch since the conservative People Power Party’s Yoon Suk-yeol’s win in the March 9 presidential election.
But, the launch appears to have failed immediately after liftoff, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Wednesday.
According to South Korea’s military, North Korea launched the projectile at 9:30 a.m. from an airfield in Sunan, an airfield outside the North Korean capital of Pyongyang.
The projectile, however, appears to have failed as it could not reach a certain altitude in its early boost phase, a JCS official told reporters on condition of anonymity.
The military did not elaborate further, saying that South Korea and the US are analyzing the launch further.
The South Korean military said it is difficult to confirm whether the projectile was a ballistic missile, given the information regarding the launch.
Earlier in the morning, Japanese public broadcaster NHK released a report suspecting the projectile as a potential ballistic missile, quoting a source at Japan’s Ministry of Defense.
North Korea had not tested an ICBM or nuclear weapons since 2017. But it has previously hinted that the country could lift the self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and ICBM testing as denuclearization talks with the United States have stalled.
While fiddling with the ICBM scheme, North Korea has been firing missiles at an unprecedented frequency this year. With Wednesday’s launch included, the North has conducted a total of 10 launches.
In January, North Korea launched six ballistic missiles and one cruise missile. The following two launches on March 5 and Feb. 27 were conducted at the Sunan airfield, which South Korea and the US suspect as North Korea’s tests of its new intercontinental ballistic missile system, the Hwasong 17.
North Korea claimed that those launches were for developing a reconnaissance satellite, but did not clarify what rockets had been used for the launches.
Hwasong 17 was first unveiled at a military parade in 2020 and reappeared at a defense exhibition in October 2021.
The South Korean military is expected to analyze if the latest launch is related to the new ICBM test.
Meanwhile, President-elect Yoon previously noted that “it appears a matter of time that North Korea puts an end to its self-imposed moratorium” during the election campaign. Yoon also stressed that the country should take North Korean provocations more seriously and become capable of deterring them.