North Korea fires new ballistic missile off east coast, ignoring summit warnings from Biden

North Korea launched a short-range ballistic missile into the eastern waters on Thursday, South Korea’s military said, hinting Pyongyang’s refusal to bow down under international pressure and warnings issued during the high-profile Asean summit in Asia.

Firing the first ballistic missile in eight days, North Korea test-fired the projectile from the eastern coastal Wonsan area in Kangwŏn Province at 10.48am local time, the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

In response to the test, South Korea ramped up its surveillance of North Korea while maintaining military readiness with close coordination with the US, it added.

The launch was conducted shortly after North Korea’s foreign minister issued a threatening warning to launch “fiercer” military counteraction actions against the US for bolstering its security commitment to its allies South Korea and Japan.

North Korea’s Choe Son Hui said the three countries’ “war drills for aggression” failed to rein in the North but would rather bring a “more serious, realistic and inevitable threat” upon themselves.

“The keener the US is on the ‘bolstered offer of extended deterrence’ to its allies and the more they intensify provocative and bluffing military activities on the Korean Peninsula and in the region, the fiercer (North Korea‘s) military counteraction will be, in direct proportion to it,” Ms Choe said. “It will pose a more serious, realistic and inevitable threat to the US and its vassal forces.”

It was Pyongyang’s first response to US president Joe Biden’s trilateral summit with Japanese and South Korean leaders in Cambodia on the sidelines of the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) summit.

Mr Biden, along with Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean president Yoon Suk Yeol issued a joint statement, condemning North Korea’s salvo of missile tests and stronger cooperation to strengthen deterrence.

At the G20 summit in Bali, Mr Biden also issued a stark warning the North Korea’s ally China, saying Xi Jinping needed to make it clear to Pyongyang that its “long-range nuclear tests” was unacceptable and that Washington will take “defensive” actions to “send a clear message to North Korea” if it went ahead with its seventh nuclear its.

“We would have to take certain actions that would be more defensive on our behalf, and it would not be directed against... China, but it would be to send a clear message to North Korea. We are going to defend our allies, as well as American soil and American capacity,” Mr Biden said in his first face-to-face meeting since becoming president with Mr Xi.

Experts say the threatening response and ballistic missile test by North Korea are attempts to signal that Pyongyang won’t back down to pressure.

Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said: “There is no silver-bullet solution for North Korea, so the US, South Korea and Japan will continue efforts to restart diplomacy, strengthen deterrence, and tighten sanctions.”

“But Washington, Seoul and Tokyo should also dismantle the false moral equivalency proffered by Pyongyang and endorsed by Beijing.”

He adds that Beijing may not immediately become more cooperative in dealing with North Korea, even after the Kim regime conducts another nuclear test as it is facing economic issues amid Covid zero policy and security woes.

The warning from Seoul and Tokyo have become more urgent as North Korea has launched more than 50 missiles in recent days and fired thousands of artillery shells, including an intercontinental ballistic missile.

North Korea is also highly anticipated to conduct its first nuclear test in five years as its next major step toward bolstering its military capability as intelligence said Pyongyang appeared ready.