(Bloomberg) — North Korea fired what appeared to be an unidentified missile into its eastern sea, the South Korean military said, raising regional security concerns as world leaders battle the spread of the coronavirus.
The launch was at least its fourth this month, which Japan’s coast guards said likely fell outside its exclusive economic zone. The projectile likely flew as far as 230 kilometers (143 miles), and reached as high as 30 kilometers, Yonhap said.
The string of launches broke a three-month lull in testing and represent Kim Jong Un’s first such provocations after saying Dec. 31 that he was no longer bound by a self-imposed freeze on major weapons tests. Kim spent much of last year threatening to take a “new path” in nuclear talks with the U.S. in 2020, if President Donald Trump didn’t make a more appealing offer.
The provocations come as Kim is facing a domestic challenge from the coronavirus, which could easily overwhelm his country’s antiquated and underfunded medical system. North Korea is sandwiched between the counties with the most confirmed infections in the world — China and South Korea.
While North Korea’s secretive government hasn’t disclosed a single confirmed coronavirus case, state media has reported for weeks about measures the government has taken to prevent local outbreaks. Kim has sealed off the borders in response, a move that cut off a trickle of trade and foreign tourism into the country.
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