North Korea launched what appeared to be an intercontinental ballistic missile off its east coast on Friday, South Korean defense officials said, in what would be its second ICBM test this month. Japan said the missile appeared to have landed 130 miles west of its shores.
The United States and South Korean militaries were analyzing data collected from the launch to determine precisely what type of missile the North fired. South Korean defense officials said the missile was launched from the Sunan neighborhood of Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, at 10:15 a.m. local time.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters in Bangkok, where he was attending a regional summit, that the missile appeared to have landed west of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, within his exclusive economic zone. He warned boats in the area to avoid contact with anything that looked like missile parts.
“North Korea is repeating provocations at an unprecedented pace, and this is totally unacceptable,” Kishida said.
North Korea has launched at least 88 ballistic and other missiles this year – more than in any previous year – in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions banning the country from testing ballistic missiles, as well as nuclear devices.
The last time North Korea test-fired an ICBM was on November 3, when it launched six ballistic missiles from three locations to the east. One of them was an ICBM that only traveled 472 miles while reaching an altitude of 1,193 miles. South Korean defense officials said the test, which triggered air attack alerts in Japan, was deemed a failure.
North Korea also fired a short-range ballistic missile from Wonsan on its east coast on Thursday. The test came two hours after North Korea’s foreign minister, Choe Son Hui, warned that her country’s response would become “more ferocious” if the United States, South Korea and Japan bolstered their military cooperation.
The leaders of these three countries met in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Monday and pledged to “work together to strengthen deterrence” against the North. They agreed to share warning data in real time to improve their countries’ ability to detect and assess the threat posed by incoming North Korean missiles. President Biden reiterated the United States’ commitment to defending its allies in East Asia “with a full range of capabilities, including nuclear.”
North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, has repeatedly vowed to step up his efforts to make the country’s nuclear arsenal and missile fleet larger and more sophisticated. Analysts say that Kim sees this as necessary to ensure the security of his regime, enhance his influence in any future arms control talks with Washington, and tip the balance of military power between North and South Korea in favor of North Korea.
“North Korea’s repeated firing of ballistic missiles is totally unacceptable, and North Korea’s remarkable improvement in nuclear and missile technology cannot be overlooked for the security of our country and the region,” Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said on Friday.
Choi Sang Hoon Reported from Seoul, and Motoko Rich from tokyo. Hikari Hida Contributed reporting from Tokyo.