North Korea fires first suspected ICBM since 2017

Seoul, South Korea

North Korea has fired what is believed to be its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in more than four years as Western leaders gather in Brussels for a security summit.

The suspected ICBM flew at an altitude of 6,000 kilometers (3,728 miles) and a distance of 1,080 kilometers (671 miles) with a flight time of 71 minutes before crashing into the waters off the coast of the west coast of Japan, according to the Japanese Ministry of Defense.

Thursday’s launch is the 11th of the year in North Korea, including one on March 16 that is presumed to have failed. Analysts said the test could be the longest-range missile North Korea has ever fired, surpassing its last ICBM launch in November 2017.

Japanese Deputy Defense Minister Makoto Oniki told reporters on Thursday that the missile’s altitude would suggest it was a “new type of ICBM”, a potential sign that North Korea is closer to developing weapons capable of targeting the United States.

The United States joined its allies South Korea and Japan in strongly condemning the launch on Thursday and called on North Korea to refrain from further destabilizing acts.

US President Joe Biden is currently in Belgium, where he is attending a G7 summit alongside Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. The rally is part of a series of meetings, including an extraordinary NATO summit, as Western leaders seek to align their responses to Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine. A European Council meeting will also take place on Thursday.

Analysts say the recent spate of North Korean missile tests suggests that the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, is trying to show an increasingly turbulent world that Pyongyang remains a player in the struggle for power and freedom. ‘affecting.

“North Korea refuses to be ignored and may be trying to take advantage of global concern over the war in Ukraine to force a fait accompli on its status as a nuclear-weapon state,” said Leif-Eric Easley. , Associate Professor of International Studies at Ewha Womans. Seoul University, told CNN.

“North Korea is far from launching an aggression on the scale of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But Pyongyang’s ambitions also go beyond self-defense as it wants to overturn Asia’s post-war security order, Easley added.

Thursday’s test also comes just two weeks after South Korea elected a new conservative president, Yoon Suk Yeol, who is expected to take a tougher line against North Korea than incumbent President Moon Jae-in.

In response to Thursday’s alleged ICBM test, South Korea’s military launched several warning missiles for the first time since 2017, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a text sent to reporters.

“Our military is monitoring the movements of the North Korean military and has confirmed that we have the capability and posture to accurately strike the missile launch origin location and command and support facilities whenever North Korea launches a missile,” the JCS said.

Analysts said North Korea appeared to have carried out a so-called lobbed missile test on Thursday. “This is a tactic often employed by them to test longer-range systems without flying more provocatively over another country,” said Joseph Dempsey, associate researcher for defense and military analysis at the London International Institute for Strategic Studies.

He said preliminary data from Thursday’s test indicates it could be a Hwasong-17, a much larger ICBM than the Hwasong-15 tested in 2017.

Kim Dong-yub, a professor at the University of North Korea Studies in Seoul, said data indicates Thursday’s missile could have a maximum range of around 15,000 kilometers (9,320 miles) – theoretically putting it at range of the continental United States, depending on the weight of the warhead it would carry – and about 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles) farther than the Hwasong-15.

Despite the potentially extended range, Kim said Pyongyang has yet to demonstrate its ability to master the technology required to allow a warhead to successfully re-enter Earth’s atmosphere in the final stages of flight.

The other most recent launches from Pyongyang, on February 26 and March 4, were likely to test a new ICBM system, the US Department of Defense said earlier this month.

The United States Indo-Pacific Command announced earlier this month that the United States was stepping up its “intelligence gathering, preparedness and surveillance activities” related to North Korea following recent launches of missiles.

The move is a signal from the Biden administration that it needs to strengthen its military posture to ensure that the United States and regional allies like South Korea and Japan are protected from North Korea’s missile tests. North.

The command said it had “ordered an intensification of intelligence gathering, surveillance and reconnaissance activities in the Yellow Sea, as well as an increased state of readiness of our ballistic missile defense forces in the region.”

Earlier this month, the U.S. military held exercises on and around the Korean Peninsula to show its preparedness in the aftermath of North Korean activities, including simulating ballistic missile defense systems.

The U.S. Army’s 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade moved to a remote location, “assuming its wartime defensive position, fielding the Patriot missile system, and executing air and missile defense operations in a simulated combat scenario,” Korean U.S. Forces said in a press release.

And at sea, F-35 and F/A-18 fighter jets taking off from the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln as well as US Air Force assets based in the region gave a show of force in the Yellow Sea off from the west coast of South Korea. , according to a statement from the US Navy’s 7th Fleet in Japan.

This story has been updated to clarify the location of the missile.

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