North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile Saturday which landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone, Seoul and Tokyo said, after Pyongyang warned of a strong response to upcoming US-South Korean military drills.
The launch, Pyongyang’s first in seven weeks, comes days before Seoul and Washington are due to start joint tabletop exercises aimed at improving their response in the event of a North Korean nuclear attack.
Japan said North Korea “fired one ICBM-class ballistic missile” which flew for some 66 minutes before landing in the country’s exclusive economic zone, chief government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters.
Tokyo’s defence minister Yasukazu Hamada said the missile could have had the capacity to fly 14,000 km (8,700 miles) — which would mean it was capable of hitting anywhere on the mainland United States.
Seoul’s military told AFP it had detected the launch of an ICBM, which was fired on a lofted trajectory — up instead of out, typically done to avoid overflying neighbouring countries — and flew some 900 kilometres (560 miles).
“Detailed specifications are being closely analysed by South Korea-US intelligence authorities,” it added in a statement.
The South’s Presidential office said it held a National Security Council meeting to discuss the launch, and that its participants decided to “take stern measures against any attempts to threaten our people”.
The estimated flight time of just over an hour is similar to that of the Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile Pyongyang tested last November, Seoul-based specialist site NK News reported.
The launch was “another step in the efforts of North Korea to perfect its long-range strike capabilities,” Chun In-bum, a retired South Korean army general, told AFP.”
The message of North Korea is clear: we are steadily progressing with the aim to perfect long-range nuclear weapons.”
The missile could have been a second successful test of a Hwasong-17, said Joseph Dempsey, a researcher at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
He told AFP it could also have been a test of “the as yet unseen solid-fuel ICBM in development” — a more advanced weapon Pyongyang has long aimed to add to its arsenal. (France24)