(ATTN: ADDS South Korean government's reaction in paras 5, 12-13, 17)
By Song Sang-ho
SEOUL, Jan. 11 (Yonhap) -- North Korea fired a suspected ballistic missile toward the East Sea on Tuesday, South Korea's military said, less than a week after it launched what it claimed to be a hypersonic missile.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said it detected the launch from an inland area at 7:27 a.m. It did not elaborate further.
"For additional information, the intelligence authorities of South Korea and the United States are in the process of conducting a detailed analysis," the JCS said in a text message sent to reporters.
The South Korean military in cooperation with the U.S. is closely monitoring North Korean military movements and maintaining a firm readiness posture, the JCS added.
The presidential National Security Council expressed "strong regret" over the launch at an emergency meeting and urged Pyongyang to respond to calls for dialogue.
The North is thought to have fired the latest missile from its northern province of Jagang bordering China, an informed source said.
Jagang Province is where the North tested its self-proclaimed hypersonic missile on Wednesday last week and another such advanced missile in September last year.
Seoul officials have dismissed the North's hypersonic missile claims as "exaggerated," saying it has yet to secure technologies for the high-tech flight vehicle.
The latest launch came as the U.N. Security Council convened a closed-door session on Pyongyang's launch of the missile last week.
Shortly before the session, the U.S. and five other countries issued a joint statement calling on the North to refrain from "destabilizing" actions, abandon its ballistic missile programs and engage in "meaningful" dialogue toward denuclearization.
Commenting on the six countries' joint statement about last week's North Korean missile launch, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it shares their concerns and stressed the importance of dialogue.
Following Tuesday's launch, the Ministry of Unification reiterated improving inter-Korean relations to an "irrevocable level" is crucial to fundamentally resolve concerns stemming from such missile launches.
"North Korea should choose cooperation for peace over acts that go against efforts to build peace on the Korean Peninsula, such as the latest missile launches, at this critical moment to stabilize the political situation surrounding the peninsula," a unification ministry official told reporters.
Pyongyang's latest saber-rattling came as the North unveiled its ambitious push to develop an array of new, formidable weapons during the eighth congress of the ruling Workers' Party a year ago.
"(The latest launches) are an expression of the North's resolve to forge ahead with the missile activities in line with an institutionalized defense plan irrespective of the external environment," Park Won-gon, a professor of North Korea studies at Ewha Womans University, said.
The North's missile launch handed yet another dispiriting setback to the South's steadfast drive to resume nuclear diplomacy with the recalcitrant regime.
Asked if Seoul will continue to push for declaring a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War, the ministry official said "the instable political situation such as now" shows the need for such a declaration to resume dialogue at an early date.
Nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang have been stalled since the no-deal Hanoi summit between the two countries in February 2019.
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