North Korea fires intercontinental ballistic missile into waters near Japan after threatening US
According to Japan’s Defence Ministry, North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic missile on Wednesday that flew for more than 70 minutes, potentially igniting a new round of hostilities with the United States and its allies.
The 74-minute flight time represents a slight improvement over the North Korean ICBM missiles tested in March and April of this year, both of which had the necessary range to possibly hit the continental United States.
After Pyongyang earlier this week threatened to shoot down US military reconnaissance aircraft performing what it called “hostile espionage” activities close to its territory, Wednesday’s launch, which landed in waters close to Japan, came as a response.
Despite being typical for Pyongyang, the missile launch and venomous rhetoric come when tensions on the peninsula are at an all-time high as Washington and Seoul step up their defense cooperation. It also seems to have been planned to coincide with the NATO summit in Lithuania, where the leaders of South Korea, Japan, and the US are gathering to talk about security issues, including the threat posed by North Korea.
The most recent missile launch, the nation’s first in three months, traveled over 6,000 kilometers (3,700 miles) in altitude and 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) in distance, according to the Japanese Defence Ministry.
A missile’s range can be estimated by looking at its flight times. Instead of using a flatter trajectory as would be used in an actual attack, North Korea tests the majority of its missiles on a highly lofted trajectory so they splash down in nearby waters.
According to the Ministry of Defence, the missile was fired at 9:59 a.m. local time and landed in the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea, at 11:15 a.m.
A type of solid-fuel weapon that is more difficult to detect and intercept than the North’s other liquid-fuel ICBMs, the road-mobile Hwasong-18 ICBM, is thought to have been tested by North Korea, according to some experts. Although there is no evidence the missile can successfully deliver a nuclear payload, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has previously referred to the Hwasong-18 as his most potent nuclear weapon.
North Korea’s launch appears to be the follow-up to its April 13 Hwasong-18 ICBM test. Based on the results of the first test launch, North Korea appears to be continuously improving its missile technology, according to Kim Dong-yub, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.
In response to the missile launch, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol called an urgent meeting of the National Security Council on Wednesday morning in Lithuania, according to a statement from Yoon’s press office. Yoon will be at the NATO summit in Vilnius.
According to his office, the South Korean president declared that he would urge “strong international solidarity” in response to North Korea’s launch at the NATO summit.
North Korea was urged to give up its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs, which are in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions prohibiting them, in a communique from the NATO meeting on Tuesday.
In the statement, it was stated that “we call on (North Korea) to accept the repeated offers of dialogue put forward by all parties concerned, including Japan, the United States, and the Republic of Korea.”
However, North Korea has yet to indicate that it is prepared to hold talks with Washington or Seoul.
Following threats made by Kim Yo Jong, a senior North Korean official and the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who claimed that a US spy plane had violated the North’s exclusive economic zone at least eight times on Monday, an ICBM test was conducted on Wednesday.
Kim issued a warning in a statement from North Korea’s official news agency on Tuesday: “in case of repeated illegal intrusion, the US forces will experience a very critical flight.”
North Korea was admonished by the US and South Korea to stop inciting unrest with untrue claims.
Kim’s accusations, according to Leif-Eric Easley, an associate professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, are part of a North Korean pattern of exaggerating external threats to gain support at home and defend weapons tests.
According to Easley, Pyongyang also times its military displays to interfere with what it sees as diplomatic coordination against it, in this case, a meeting of the leaders of South Korea and Japan during the NATO summit.
On the 73rd anniversary of the start of the Korean War, tens of thousands of North Koreans participated in anti-US marches in Pyongyang last month. According to state media, the participants branded the US as a “Destroyer of peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula” and issued a nuclear war warning.
To counter any military threat from North Korea, South Korea, the US, and Japan have been conducting joint and trilateral military drills.
The launch on Wednesday comes after North Korea’s failed attempt to launch its first spy satellite in May and two weeks before it is scheduled to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Korean Armistice Agreement, which ended hostilities in the Korean War.