Test shows ability to attack targets in South Korea and Japan, key U.S. allies that host 80,000 American troops

 North Korea fired a suspected ballistic missile into the sea early Tuesday, Seoul and Tokyo officials said, in the latest in a series of weapons tests by Pyongyang that raised questions about the sincerity of its recent offer for talks with South Korea, the Associated Press reported ,

Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said “an unidentified projectile” fired from an inland location flew toward North Korea’s eastern sea Tuesday morning. It said South Korean and US intelligence authorities were analyzing details of the launch.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said North Korea fired “what could be a ballistic missile” and his government stepped up vigilance and surveillance as it analyzed details of the launch.

Tests of ballistic and cruise missiles earlier this month were North Korea’s first such launches in six months and displayed its ability to attack targets in South Korea and Japan, both key US allies where a total of 80,000 American troops are stationed.

But last Friday and Saturday, Kim Yo Jong, the influential sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, reached out to Seoul, saying her country was open to resuming talks and reconciliatory steps if conditions are met. Some experts said North Korea wants South Korea to work to win it relief from US-led sanctions.

South Korea has called her statement “meaningful” but urged North Korea to restore communication channels before any talks between the rivals can be arranged.

The communication lines have remained largely dormant for about 15 months, so restoring them and accepting Seoul’s calls on them could be a yardstick to asses how serious the North is about its offer for conditional talks.

As the North conducted its third round of weapons launches on Tuesday, North Korean Ambassador Kim Song used his speech on the last day of the UN General Assembly to justify his country’s development of a “war deterrent” to defend against US threats.

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