North Korea fires suspected ICBM as escalation with South Korea grows

    A man watches a television screen showing a news broadcast with file footage of a North Korean missile test

    North Korea has fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) designed to hit targets on the other side of the world, say South Korean officials.

    The ICBM launch is Pyongyang’s seventh this year, and comes amid concerns that it will soon test a nuclear weapon.

    It comes a day after both Koreas fired missiles in an escalation of tensions. That exchange saw the most number of missiles launched by the North in a single day.

    North Korea’s multiple launches comes as the US and South Korea are staging their largest-ever joint air drills, which Pyongyang has strongly criticised as “aggressive and provocative”. On Thursday North Korea fired a long-range missile at around 07:40 local time, according to a statement from South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.

    It flew for about 760km (472 miles) and reached a height of around 1,920 km. But it appeared to have failed mid-flight, according to Yonhap news agency citing sources. Pyongyang also fired two short-range ballistic missiles.

    The launches led the Japanese government to issue a rare emergency alert on Thursday morning to residents in some of its northern regions, telling them to stay indoors. Tokyo initially said the missile had flown over Japan, but Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada later said it did “not cross the Japanese archipelago, but disappeared over the Sea of Japan”.

    Prime Minister Fumio Kishida later condemned North Korea’s “repeated missile launches”, calling them an “outrage”.

    The US said the launch demonstrated the threat North Korea’s missile programme poses to neighbours and international peace and security. “Our commitments to the defence of the Republic of Korea and Japan remain ironclad,” a State Department spokesman said.

    Meanwhile South Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister Cho Hyun-dong and US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said the launches were “deplorable, immoral” during a phone call on Thursday, according to South Korea.

      It comes just a month after North Korea launched a ballistic missile over Japan – the first time it had done so in five years. The North has tested a record number of missiles this year as tensions have risen. Despite crippling sanctions, Pyongyang conducted six nuclear tests between 2006 and 2017 and is believed to be planning a seventh.

      It has continued to advance its military capability – in breach of United Nations Security Council resolutions – to threaten its neighbours and potentially even bring the US mainland within striking range.

      Wednesday’s launch saw one of Pyongyang’s ballistic missiles cross the Northern Limit Line (NLL), a disputed maritime border between the Koreas. It landed outside South Korea’s territorial waters but was the closest a North Korean missile got to the border.

      Seoul responded with warplanes firing three air-to-ground missiles that also crossed the disputed maritime demarcation line. It fired a total of 23 missiles on Wednesday.


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