- After 28 days of reportedly ceasing weapons tests during the Beijing Olympics, North Korea fired a ballistic missile that traveled 300 kilometers (approximately 186 miles) towards the sea on Sunday.
- The surprise test occurred on the same day Russian President Vladimir Putin put his country’s nuclear forces on high alert.
- South Korea denounced the launch as ”not desirable at all for peace and stability,” while Japan said the move was “absolutely unforgivable” if its timing was deliberate.
- Pyongyang commented on the Ukraine crisis for the first time on Saturday, echoing Beijing’s stance blaming the U.S. for the situation and refusing to call Russia’s incursion into the sovereign nation an “invasion.”
Amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, North Korea reportedly launched a ballistic missile on Sunday after a month-long break from weapons testing.
The missile, which was fired toward the sea, was Pyongyang’s first launch after ceasing all weapons tests during the Winter Olympics, hosted by its ally, China, according to the Korea Herald.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff reportedly said the missile was detected from the Sunan area in the North Korean capital at around 7:52 a.m. Japan’s Defense Ministry said it traveled some 300 kilometers (approximately 186 miles) at an altitude of 620 kilometers (385 miles) before landing outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone, according to the Associated Press.
South Korea’s Gen. Won In-choul, chairman of the JCS, and U.S. Gen. Paul LaCamera, commander of ROK-US Combined Forces Command, held a video conference after the missile test, according to the Korea Herald, during which both parties committed to “maintaining a firm defense posture.”
The test also occurred on the same day Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his nuclear deterrence forces on high alert. The move, which continues to make headlines around the world, was a direct retaliation for the “unfriendly economic actions” and “aggressive” statements made by NATO countries against Moscow, according to Russian state news agency TASS.
The South Korean Presidential National Security Council reportedly expressed “deep concern and grave regret” over Pyongyang’s latest launch.
“Launching a ballistic missile at a time when the world is striving to resolve the Ukraine war is never desirable for peace and stability in the world, region and on the Korean Peninsula,” the executive Blue House said in a statement, according to the Korea Herald.
Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi also denounced the test, saying, “If North Korea deliberately carried out the missile launch while the international community is distracted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, such an act is absolutely unforgivable,” according to the Associated Press.
Similarly to China last week, Pyongyang has blamed the U.S. for the ongoing crisis in Ukraine and refused to call the situation a “war” or an “invasion.”
“The U.S. unilateral and unfair cold war mentality and its bloc-forming external policy make the structure of international relations be transformed into the one of a new cold war, and they strain politico-military situations with each passing day and continue to spawn new knotty problems in different parts of the world,” read a post published by the North Korean Foreign Ministry which was attributed to researcher Ri Ji Song by KCNA.
The post then claimed: “The root cause of the Ukrainian crisis also lies in the high-handedness and arbitrariness of the U.S. which has held on solely to the unilateral sanction and pressure while pursuing only global hegemony and military supremacy in disregard of the legitimate demand of Russia for its security.”
In a tweet, Artyom Lukin, a professor of international relations at Far Eastern Federal University in Russia’s Vladivostok, pointed out that Pyongyang’s statement is “similar to China’s official stance.” He called it another sign of coalition between the three states.
North Korea’s foreign ministry posts a website comment which blames the US for the Ukraine crisis. The wording is similar to China’s official stance. Another sign of RU-CN-DPRK coalition.
— Artyom Lukin (@ArtyomLukin) February 26, 2022
For the first time since the attacks began, Russian and Ukrainian officials held talks at the Ukraine-Belarus border on Monday morning. Ukrainian soldiers reported that the Russian offensive has slowed, as per Al Jazeera.
Moscow’s nuclear forces, however, remain on high alert.
“Shifts on duty at the command posts of the Strategic Missile Forces, the Northern and Pacific Fleets, and the Long-Range Aviation Command began to carry out combat duty with reinforced personnel,” Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told Putin, according to Reuters.