SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea test-fired possibly its biggest intercontinental ballistic missile toward the sea Thursday, according to its neighbors, raising the ante in a pressure campaign aimed at forcing the United States and other rivals to accept it as a nuclear power and remove crippling sanctions.
The launch, which extended North Korea’s barrage of weapons tests this year, came after the U.S. and South Korean militaries said the country was preparing a flight of a new large ICBM first unveiled in October 2020.
South Korea’s military responded with live-fire drills of its own missiles launched from land, a fighter jet and a ship, underscoring a revival of tensions as nuclear negotiations remain frozen. It said it confirmed readiness to execute precision strikes against North Korea’s missile launch points as well as command and support facilities.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters the United States requested an open Security Council meeting on the launch and looks forward to having it on Friday.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the North's ICBM fired from the Sunan area near the capital Pyongyang traveled 1,080 kilometers (670 miles) and reached a maximum altitude of over 6,200 kilometers (3,850 miles). The missile was apparently fired at a high angle to avoid reaching the territorial waters of Japan.
Japan’s Deputy Defense Minister Makoto Oniki said flight details suggested a new type of ICBM.
“It’s an unforgivable recklessness. We resolutely condemn the act,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said after arriving in Belgium for the Group of Seven meetings.
The missile flew 71 minutes before possibly landing near Japanese territorial waters off the island of Hokkaido, said Tokyo’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno. Japan may search for debris inside its exclusive economic zone to analyze the North’s technology, he said.
Japan’s coast guard issued a warning to vessels in nearby waters, but there were no immediate reports of damage to boats or aircraft. A Japanese fisheries organization released a statement denouncing the launch as a “barbaric act” that puts fishermen’s lives and livelihoods at risk.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in during an emergency National Security Council meeting criticized North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for breaking a self-imposed moratorium on ICBM tests and posing a “serious threat” to the region and the broader international community.
The United States strongly condemns the North’s launch, said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, calling it a “brazen violation” of U.N. Security Council resolutions that risks destabilizing the region’s security.
“The door has not closed on diplomacy, but Pyongyang must immediately cease its destabilizing actions. The United States will take all necessary measures to ensure the security of the American homeland and Republic of Korea and Japanese allies,” she said, referring to South Korea’s formal name.
In Brussels, Kishida and President Joe Biden discussed the North's launch on the sidelines of the G-7 summit, stressed the need for diplomacy and agreed to continue working together to hold Pyongyang responsible, the White House said.
Kim Dong-yub, a professor at Seoul’s University of North Korean Studies, said flight details suggest the missile could reach targets 15,000 kilometers (9,320 miles) away when fired on normal trajectory with a warhead weighing less than a ton. That would place the entire U.S. mainland within striking distance.
Following a highly provocative streak in nuclear explosive and ICBM tests in 2017, Kim Jong Un suspended such testing in 2018 ahead of his first meeting with then-U.S. President Donald Trump.
North Korea’s resumption of nuclear brinkmanship reflects a determination to cement its status as a nuclear power and wrest badly needed economic concessions from Washington and others from a position of strength, analysts say.