North Korea conducts ninth missile test of the year ahead of South Korea elections

The launch underscores the challenges facing whoever wins Wednesday's presidential election

North Korea has launched nine missiles this year ahead of elections in South Korea. AP
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North Korea fired at least one suspected ballistic missile toward the sea to the east of the Korean peninsula on Saturday, militaries in the region said, an apparent test just days before the south's presidential election.

South Korea's joint chiefs of staff said the launch involved an "unidentified projectile", while the office of Japan's prime minister said it was a suspected ballistic missile.

The launch would be the ninth this year. The last was on February 27, when North Korea said it tested systems for a reconnaissance satellite.

The launch underscores the challenges facing whoever wins Wednesday's presidential election in South Korea.

With denuclearisation talks stalled, North Korea conducted a record number of missile launches in January. It appears to be preparing to launch a spy satellite in the near future, and has suggested it could resume testing of nuclear weapons or its longest range intercontinental ballistic missiles for the first time since 2017.

Analysts say North Korea could use the upcoming presidential transition in South Korea or a big national holiday on April 15 to test a major new missile or other weapon.

North Korea's ballistic missile launches are banned by United Nations Security Council resolutions, which have imposed sanctions on the country over its weapons programmes.

The United States said it is open to talks without preconditions, but Pyongyang says talks are only possible after the United States and allies drop hostile policies.

On Friday, the US-based 38 North project, which monitors North Korea, said the country's main nuclear facility is in full swing, producing fuel for potential nuclear weapons and an expansion of its nuclear production facilities.

Updated: March 05, 2022, 4:20 AM