US condemns North Korea's ballistic missile launch

North Korea fired a suspected ballistic missile off its east coast, posing a threat to neighbors South Korea.

A suspected missile is fired, in this image released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 22, 2020. (photo credit: KCNA/ REUTERS)
A suspected missile is fired, in this image released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 22, 2020.
(photo credit: KCNA/ REUTERS)

The United States condemned North Korea's ballistic missile launch on Wednesday, saying it violated multiple UN Security Council resolutions and posed a threat to Pyongyang's neighbors, a State Department spokesperson said.

North Korea fired a suspected ballistic missile off its east coast on Wednesday, just hours before South Korean President Moon Jae-in attended a groundbreaking ceremony for a rail line he hopes will eventually connect the divided Korean peninsula.

North Korea's first launch since October underscored leader Kim Jong Un's New Year's vow to bolster the military to counter an unstable international situation amid stalled talks with South Korea and the United States.

The presumed missile was fired around 8:10 a.m. from an inland location, over the east coast and into the sea, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said.

Hours later, Moon visited the South Korean east coast city of Goseong, near the border with the North, where he broke ground for a new rail line that he called "a stepping stone for peace and regional balance" on the peninsula.

 South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shake hands at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, South Korea, April 27, 2018. (credit: KOREA SUMMIT PRESS POOL/POOL VIA REUTERS) South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shake hands at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, South Korea, April 27, 2018. (credit: KOREA SUMMIT PRESS POOL/POOL VIA REUTERS)

In remarks at the ceremony, Moon acknowledged the launch raised concerns of tensions and called for North Korea to make sincere efforts for dialog.

"We should not give up the hope for dialog in order to fundamentally overcome this situation," he said. "If both Koreas work together and build trust, peace would be achieved one day."

The apparent missile launch by the nuclear-armed North highlighted the challenges Moon faces in his push to achieve a diplomatic breakthrough before his five-year term ends in May.

Reconnecting the two Koreas by rail was a central issue in meetings between Kim and Moon in 2018, but those efforts went nowhere as talks aimed at convincing North Korea to surrender its nuclear weapons in exchange for easing international sanctions faltered in 2019.

Kim's New Year speech made no mention of efforts by South Korea to restart negotiations or offers by the United States to talk, though analysts noted that doesn't mean he has closed the door on diplomacy.