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North Korea Tests Record Number of Missiles This Month

People watch a television screen showing a news broadcast with file footage of a North Korean missile test, at a railway station in Seoul on Jan. 25, 2022.
North Korea Tests Record Number of Missiles This Month
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The South Korean military said that North Korea launched two more missiles Thursday. The new tests make this January the busiest month ever for North Korean missile tests.

The report said the North launched what seemed to be two short-distance ballistic missiles toward the sea off its east coast around 8 a.m. local time.

South Korea said the missiles traveled about 190 kilometers at a height of 20 kilometers near Hamhung, a city on North Korea's east coast.

So far this month, North Korea has tested missiles six times, firing a total of at least 10 missiles into the sea. Observers say that is the most North Korean missile launches in a single month. The total also includes low-flying cruise missiles.

People watch a TV showing a file image of North Korea's missile launch during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Jan. 25, 2022.
People watch a TV showing a file image of North Korea's missile launch during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Jan. 25, 2022.

North Korea's intense period of missile tests appears, at least partly, aimed at pressuring the United States and South Korea. The two countries have called for the North to return to talks on its banned nuclear weapons program.

U.S. will go anywhere

Mark Lambert is U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for Japan and Korea. He said Wednesday the United States will "go anywhere" and "talk about anything" with North Korea.

"We have to have a serious discussion about the denuclearization of North Korea, and if North Korea is willing to do that, all sorts of promising things can happen," Lambert said.

North Korea has refused to take part in talks. The country has said the United States should first make changes to its military and economic policies.

Leif-Eric Easley is an associate professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul. He has offered some possible reasons for the tests.

Easley said the North Korean government is developing many different “offensive weapons despite limited resources” and serious economic problems. He added that some of the North Korean tests are part of an effort to develop new abilities, especially for avoiding missile defense systems. Other launches are meant to show that the country is ready to use the missiles it already has, Easley said.

Faster-than sound missiles

Earlier this week, North Korea launched two cruise missiles. It has also carried out two tests of what it described as a hypersonic missile. The North has launched two ballistic missiles from a train and fired two short-distance guided missiles from an airport in Pyongyang. All these tests took place in January.

The U.S. State Department on Wednesday condemned the launches. It said they violate several United Nations Security Council resolutions. The State Department also said the launches threaten North Korea’s neighbors and the international community.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida called the tests “very regrettable.” South Korea’s National Security Council also expressed strong regret, saying the launches go against peace and stability in the area.

Earlier this month, the U.S. increased its restrictions against North Korea. Financial restrictions were placed on five North Koreans the United States accused of helping to buy supplies for North Korea's weapons programs.

I’m Jill Robbins.

William Gallo reported on this story for VOA News. Jill Robbins adapted it for Learning English.


Words in This Story

ballistic missile – n. a weapon that is shot through the sky over a great distance and then falls to the ground

cruise missile – n. a large military weapon that flies close to the ground and is directed to a specific place

hypersonic – adj. relating to speeds of more than five times the speed of sound

despiteprep. without being prevented by (something) — used to say that something happens or is true even though there is something that might prevent it from happening or being true

stability – n. the quality or state of something that is not easily changed or likely to change

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