North Korea fires an ICBM and lands near Japan

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North Korea today fired a suspected intercontinental ballistic missile, the Seoul military said, which Japan says could have reached the mainland United States.

The missile is believed to have landed in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said, calling the launch “absolutely unacceptable”.

The launch is Pyongyang’s second in two days and part of a record blitz in recent weeks.

Confirming the launch, Tokyo said that based on its calculations, the missile could have had the range to hit the American mainland.

North Korea says the recent wave of launches is a response to moves by Washington to bolster its protection of regional security allies South Korea and Japan.

Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said it ‘detected a long-range ballistic missile (ICBM) around 10:15 a.m. fired from the Sunan area in Pyongyang towards the East Sea,’ referring to the water body as well. known as the Sea of ​​Japan.

The missile traveled 1,000 km at an altitude of 6,100 km and at a speed of Mach 22, the South Korean military said, calling it a “serious provocation undermining peace and security on the Korean peninsula. “.

Tokyo Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada told reporters the ‘ICBM-class missile’ was fired on a ‘high trajectory’ – meaning the missile is fired and not extinguished, usually to avoid overflying neighboring countries.

“Based on calculations taking into account the trajectory, the ballistic missile this time could have had a range of 15,000 km, depending on the weight of its warhead, and if so, that means that the mainland American was within reach,” he said.

The launch comes a day after North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile as its foreign minister, Choe Son Hui, warned that Pyongyang would take ‘more fierce’ military action if the United States stepped up its commitment of “extended deterrence” to their regional allies.

Washington has sought to bolster regional security cooperation and step up joint military exercises in response to growing provocations from the nuclear-armed North.

US President Joe Biden discussed North Korea’s recent missile tests with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping earlier this week and also held talks with leaders in Tokyo and Seoul amid growing fears that the regime recluse will soon conduct its seventh nuclear test.

North Korea was also high on the agenda when Chinese and Japanese leaders held their first face-to-face talks in three years at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum in Bangkok yesterday.

Experts said the launch of one of North Korea’s most powerful weapons was a clear sign that leader Kim Jong-un was unhappy with the recent talks.

Firing an ICBM “is a clear message to the United States and Japan,” said Han Kwon-hee, director of the Missile Strategy Forum.

Repeated launches

Earlier this month, North Korea carried out a series of launches, including an ICBM, which Seoul said appeared to have failed at the time.

Pyongyang also fired a short-range ballistic missile that crossed the de facto maritime border between the two countries and landed near southern territorial waters for the first time since the end of the Korean War in 1953.

President Yoon Suk-yeol said at the time that it was “actually a territorial invasion”.

The two launches were part of a November 2 barrage in which Pyongyang fired 23 missiles – more than it launched in all of 2017, the year of ‘fire and fury’ when Kim traded barbs with then-US President Donald Trump on Twitter and in state media. .

Experts say North Korea is seizing the opportunity to conduct banned missile tests, confident of escaping further UN sanctions over the Ukraine-related standoff at the United Nations.

China, Pyongyang’s main diplomatic and economic ally, joined Russia in May in vetoing a US offer at the UN Security Council to strengthen sanctions against North Korea.

Washington responded to North Korea’s anti-sanctions missile tests by extending drills with South Korea and deploying strategic bombers.

Pyongyang has also been under a self-imposed coronavirus lockdown since the start of 2020, which experts say would limit the impact of any additional external sanctions. — AFP, November 18, 2022.

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