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North Korea Launches Ballistic Missile Amid U.S. Secretary of State’s Visit to Seoul

North Korea conducted its first ballistic missile test in two months on Monday, firing a missile into the sea as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Seoul for a conference on advancing democracy hosted by President Yoon Suk Yeol.

The missile launch, which occurred to the east of the Korean peninsula, was confirmed by South Korea’s military. Japan’s coast guard also reported the launch, stating that the missile had already fallen. Later, Japan detected a second apparent ballistic missile launch by North Korea, which also fell outside its exclusive economic zone area.

North Korea has been conducting exercises using conventional weapons in recent weeks, often overseen by its leader, Kim Jong Un. This display of military prowess coincided with large-scale annual joint military drills between South Korea and the United States, which concluded last Thursday.

On Sunday, the South Korean military conducted drills aimed at reinforcing western islands near the sea border with North Korea, which had previously been bombed by the North in 2010.

Blinken, along with senior officials from around the world, was attending the Summit for Democracy conference in South Korea, initiated by U.S. President Joe Biden to address democratic challenges globally. Blinken also planned to meet with his South Korean counterpart during his visit.

North Korea’s last ballistic launch occurred on January 14, when it tested an intermediate-range hypersonic missile. In subsequent tests, it launched multiple cruise missiles off its east coast, including a new surface-to-sea missile.

The latest missile launch adds to tensions in the region and underscores the challenges faced in addressing North Korea’s military activities amid diplomatic efforts to denuclearize the Korean peninsula.

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