North Korea has launched another suspected ICBM toward the Sea of Japan, according to regional military officials, with Tokyo noting the munition landed within its exclusive economic zone. The show of force comes amid a record number of weapons tests by the DPRK this year – many in retaliation to joint military drills between the United States, South Korea and Japan.
The South Korean military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) announced the launch early on Friday morning, saying it detected an ICBM fired from the Sunan region near North Korea’s capital around 10:15am local time. The projectile traveled just over 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) and reached a top speed of Mach 22, according to the JCS.
The missile was thought to be a Hwasong-17 ICBM, which was first successfully tested in March and is now reportedly the longest-range munition in Pyongyang’s arsenal.
“North Korea’s ICBM launch this time is a significant provocation and serious act of threat that undermines peace and stability not only on the Korean Peninsula but also in the international community and a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions,” Seoul’s military said in a statement, adding that it is “maintaining a full readiness posture in close cooperation with the US.”
The Japanese Defense Ministry also commented on Friday’s launch, largely corroborating details shared by the South Korean JCS while noting the Hwasong-17 has sufficient range to reach the United States mainland. Officials said the missile landed in waters about 124 miles (200km) west of Japan’s northernmost Hokkaido prefecture, inside the country’s exclusive economic zone.
Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida condemned the show of force by the DPRK, saying his government had “lodged a strong protest” with Pyongyang, which he said has “repeated its provocations with unprecedented frequency.”
“We have told [North Korea] that we absolutely cannot tolerate such actions,” the PM continued, insisting “Japan, the US and South Korea must coordinate closely to work toward the complete denuclearization of North Korea.”
The ICBM launch was North Korea’s second this month, with another test earlier in November reportedly failing in mid-flight. The demonstrations come amid a barrage of North Korean weapons tests this year, as officials in Pyongyang have repeatedly condemned several rounds of joint war games between Washington, Seoul and Tokyo. North Korea has consistently stated it views such military drills as rehearsals for an invasion, and maintains its retaliatory weapons tests are legitimate responses to foreign “provocations.”
Thursday also saw the North fire a short-range ballistic missile toward Japanese waters. The move came on the heels of a warning by North Korea’s Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui, who said her country would continue to take “fiercer” military action against US-led exercises following a trilateral security meeting between the United States, Japan and South Korea last weekend.