SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea fired a suspected long-range missile intended to hit the mainland US on Friday, its neighbors said, a day after the north resumed its testing activities in an apparent protest against US moves to close its alliances. with South Korea. and Japan.
The South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement Friday morning that they detected a ballistic missile launch off the North’s east coast. It later said that the missile launched is likely an intercontinental ballistic missile.
US, Japan and South Korea vow united response to North Korea threat
Japan’s Defense Ministry also said in a statement that North Korea fired an ICBM-class ballistic missile from its western coastal area that flew into the country’s eastern waters. It said the missile, launched around 10:14 am (0114GMT), was still in the air and might land within Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
If confirmed, it would be North Korea’s first ICBM launch in about two weeks. Outside experts said an ICBM launched by North Korea on Nov. 3 failed to perform the planned flight.
The November 3 test was believed to involve a new type of developmental ICBM. North Korea has two other types of ICBM – Hwasong-14 and Hwasong-15 and their test launches in 2017 have proven they can potentially reach parts of the US homeland.
South Korea’s presidential office said it has convened an emergency meeting to discuss the North Korean launch.
“North Korea has repeatedly fired missiles at an unprecedented frequency this year and is significantly heightening tensions on the Korean Peninsula,” Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamad told reporters.
The launch is the latest in a series of missile tests North Korea has conducted in recent weeks. But the country had suspended weapons launches for about a week before firing a short-range ballistic missile on Thursday.
Before Thursday’s launch, the North’s foreign minister Choe Son Hui threatened “tougher” military responses to the US to bolster its security commitments to its allies South Korea and Japan.
Choe referred to US President Joe Biden’s recent trilateral summit with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts on the sidelines of a regional meeting in Cambodia. In their joint statement, the three leaders strongly condemned North Korea’s recent missile tests and agreed to work together to strengthen deterrence. Biden reaffirmed the US commitment to defend South Korea and Japan with a full range of capabilities, including its nuclear weapons.
Choe did not say what steps North Korea could take, but said that “the US will be well aware that it is gambling, which it will surely regret.”
The North has cited a US military presence in the region as evidence of its hostility to the country. It has said its recent spate of weapons launches came in response to what it called provocative military exercises between the United States and South Korea.