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North Korea test fires ballistic missile designed for launch from submarine

North Korea launches ballistic missile

North Korea test-fired on Wednesday a type of ballistic missile intended to be launched from a submarine, South Korean and U.S. officials have said. It appeared to be the first test of a North Korean missile capable of being fired from underwater in three years, and it came just a couple days before the expected resumption of nuclear talks with the United States. 

A U.S. official told CBS News senior national defense correspondent David Martin that the North had conducted a land-based test of a mid-range, submarine launched ballistic missile — so it was not actually launched from a submarine.

The missile flew about 280 miles at a maximum altitude of 565 miles after liftoff from an unspecified place near the North's eastern coastal town of Wonsan, Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. The South Korean military said it was working with U.S. intelligence authorities to analyze the details of the launch.

In a statement issued by a State Department spokesperson, the U.S. called on North Korea "to refrain from provocations, abide by their obligations under UN Security Council Resolutions, and remain engaged in substantive and sustained negotiations to do their part to ensure peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and achieve denuclearization." 

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Japan lodged an immediate protest against North Korea, saying at least part of the missile had landed inside the country's economic exclusive zone. If confirmed, it would be the first North Korean missile that has landed that close to Japan since November 2017.

"At the moment, it seems that one missile was launched and that split into two and fell. We are conducting analysis for details," Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference.   

During an emergency National Security Council meeting in South Korea, council members placed weight on the possibility that North Korea had tested a submarine-launched missile and expressed "strong concerns" over the North Korean move, according to South Korea's presidential office.

CBS News correspondent Ramy Inocencio reports the test launch was a significant escalation from the short-range missiles North Korea has tested so far this year. North Korea having the ability to launch missiles from submarines would be alarming because such weapons are harder to detect in advance. 

Many experts believe the North is trying to raise the stakes and ramp up pressure on the U.S. before their nuclear negotiators meet on Saturday. 

"The North is trying to convey a message that time is not on the side of the United States and that it could take a different path if the working-level talks don't go the way it wanted," Du Hyeogn Cha, a visiting scholar at Seoul's Asan Institute for Policy Studies, told The Associated Press. 

Stalled talks to resume

Nuclear negotiations have been at a standstill for months following a February summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Trump in Hanoi, Vietnam. Those talks broke down after the U.S. rejected North Korean demands for broad sanctions relief in exchange for partially surrendering its nuclear capabilities.

But Mr. Trump and Kim met again in the Demilitarized Zone that divides the Korean Peninsula after the G7 summit at the end of June. Mr. Trump made a historic trip into North Korea, becoming the first serving U.S. president to cross the border. North Korea then resumed test-firing missiles in July. 

North Korea launches projectiles hours after it offers to resume talks with U.S.

The last launch, on September 10, came just hours after the North's first vice foreign minister, Choe Son Hui, said the country would be willing to resume nuclear diplomacy with the U.S., but Washington must come to the negotiating table with acceptable new proposals.

North Korea described last month's test-firing, overseen by Kim, as a "newly developed super-large multiple rocket launcher." Kim was quoted by state media as saying the system would require a "running fire test" to complete its development. 

North Korea could also be demonstrating its displeasure over South Korea displaying some of its newly purchased U.S.-made F-35 stealth fighter jets for the first time during its Armed Forces Day ceremony Tuesday. The North has sharply reacted to the F-35 purchases, calling them a grave provocation that violate recent inter-Korean agreements aimed at lowering military tensions.

In a statement released through state media, the North's Choe said her country and the U.S. would have preliminary contact on Friday before holding working-level talks Saturday. She expressed optimism over the outcome of the meeting but did not say where it would take place. 

"It is my expectation that the working-level negotiations would accelerate the positive development of the DPRK-U.S. relations," Choe said in the statement, using an abbreviation for North Korea's formal name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The U.S. confirmed the talks.

"I can confirm that U.S. and DPRK officials plan to meet within the next week. I do not have further details to share on the meeting," said State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus, who is traveling with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Rome.

Choe's announcement came after North Korea praised Mr. Trump last month for suggesting that Washington might pursue an unspecified "new method" in nuclear negotiations with the North. North Korea also has welcomed Mr. Trump's decision to fire hawkish former National Security Adviser John Bolton, who advocated a "Libya model" of unilateral denuclearization as a template for North Korea. 

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The 2004 disarmament of Libya is seen by North Korea as a deeply provocative comparison because Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi was killed following U.S.-supported military action in his country seven years after giving up a rudimentary nuclear program that was far less advanced than North Korea's.

The office of South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who lobbied hard to set up the first summit between Kim and Mr. Trump last year in Singapore, welcomed Choe's announcement and expressed hope that the resumed talks would result in "substantial progress" in denuclearization and stabilization of peace.

That could be a tall order. 

Limited success so far

In the high-stakes diplomacy between Mr. Trump and Kim, which has been driven chiefly by the personalities of the leaders rather than an established diplomatic process, working-level meetings have been useful for fleshing out the logistics of summits but unproductive in hammering out the details of a nuclear deal that has eluded the countries for decades.

The stalemate of the past months has revealed fundamental differences between the two sides. North Korea says it will never unilaterally surrender its nuclear weapons and missiles and insists that U.S.-led sanctions against it should be lifted first before any progress in negotiations. 

The Trump administration has vowed to maintain robust economic pressure until North Korea takes real steps toward fully and verifiably relinquishing its nuclear program.

There are doubts about whether Kim would ever voluntarily deal away an arsenal that he may see as his strongest guarantee of survival.

After their Singapore summit in June 2018, Mr. Trump and Kim issued a vague statement calling for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula without describing how or when it would occur.

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