Reckless: North Korea fires ICBM into sea west of Japan

launch 18 Nov

North Korea has launched an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), South Korea says.

Pyongyang’s longer range missiles are designed to bring the US mainland within range.

Japan’s Coast Guard said the missile landed in the sea roughly 210km (130 miles) west of Hokkaido.

On Thursday North Korean FM Choe Son Hui warned of a “fiercer” response to US plans to strengthen its military presence in the region.

It also launched a short range ballistic missile the same day.

That followed Sunday’s meeting between US President Joe Biden, South Korean leader Yoon Suk-yeol and Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on the sidelines of a summit in Cambodia.

Mr Biden later said the three allies were “more aligned than ever” on North Korea’s “provocative behaviour”.

North Korea has fired more than 50 missiles over the past two months, most of them short-range. These long-range launches are rarer, and pose a direct threat to the US, as the missiles are designed to carry nuclear warheads to anywhere on the US mainland.

The latest suspected ICBM was fired at 10:15 local time (02:15 GMT) from near the North Korean capital Pyongyang, military chiefs in Seoul said.

It reached an altitude of 6,100km on a lofted trajectory and travelled 1,000km (621 miles), reaching a speed of Mach 22, South Korea’s military said.

A lofted trajectory means the missile flies much higher into space but across a shorter distance than it would if fired on a normal trajectory.

But Japan’s defence minister Yasukazu Hamada said the missile had sufficient range to reach the US and was capable of flying as far as 15,000km (9.320 miles).

South Korea’s Mr Yoon condemned the launch and said he would work with the international community on a coordinated response.

“We have told (Pyongyang) that we absolutely cannot tolerate such actions,” Japan’s Mr Kishida told reporters in Thailand.

North Korea’s pattern over the past months has been to launch missiles in response to US military activity around the Korean Peninsula.

It is developing a new type of long-range missile, the Hwasong-17, which is larger than the ICBMs it has successfully tested in the past.

Experts believe several attempts to launch the Hwasong-17 have failed, and the North has not yet been able to get it to fly its full course. Earlier this month an ICBM it failed mid-flight, according to the South Korean military.

Despite crippling sanctions, Pyongyang conducted six nuclear tests between 2006 and 2017 and is believed to be planning a seventh. It has also continued to advance its military capability.

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