SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – The Japanese defense minister says a North Korean missile test launched Friday could potentially reach the entire continental United States.
Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada told reporters that the suspected intercontinental ballistic missile flew 1,000 kilometers (620 mi) at a maximum altitude of about 6,000 kilometers (3,600 mi).
They say that the altitude suggests that the missile is likely to be launched at a higher angle.
He says that depending on the weight of the warhead to be placed on the missile, the weapon has a range of more than 15,000 km (9,320 mi), “in which case it could cover the entire mainland United States.”
This is breaking news update. An earlier AP story is below:
North Korea fired a suspected intercontinental ballistic missile that landed near Japanese territorial waters on Friday, its neighbors said, the second major such weapons test this month in a show of determination to perfect weapon systems targeting the US mainland. Shows resolution.
The launch was the latest in a series of weapons tests that North Korea has conducted in recent months in response to US hostilities. Some experts say the North has been able to conduct such weapons tests in part because China and Russia have resisted US moves to impose tougher sanctions on North Korea.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said it detected a suspected ICBM launch from North Korea’s capital region at 10:15 a.m. and the weapon flew across the country toward the North’s east coast. The South Korean military has increased its surveillance on North Korea and maintains readiness in close coordination with the United States, the statement said.
The Japanese Defense Ministry also initially identified the weapon as an ICBM-class ballistic missile. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, visiting Bangkok to attend a regional summit, told reporters that it was believed to have entered the sea inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone west of Hokkaido, Japan’s main northern island. I had landed
If confirmed, it would be North Korea’s first ICBM launch in nearly two weeks. An ICBM launched by North Korea on November 3 failed its intended flight and fell into the sea after a stage separated, experts said.
The November 3 test is believed to have involved a developmental ICBM called the Hwasong-17. North Korea has two other types of ICBMs – the Hwasong-14 and the Hwasong-15 – and their test-launches in 2017 proved they could potentially reach parts of the US homeland.
The Hwasong-17 has a longer range than the others and its sheer size suggests that it is designed to carry multiple nuclear warheads to defeat missile defense systems. Some experts say the November 3 test showed some technological progress in Hwasong-17’s development, noting that in its first test in March, the missile exploded shortly after liftoff.
“North Korea has been repeatedly firing missiles at an unprecedented frequency this year, significantly increasing tensions on the Korean Peninsula,” Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamad told reporters.
South Korea’s presidential office said it called an emergency security meeting to discuss the North Korean launch.
North Korea halted weapons launches for nearly a week before Thursday’s short-range ballistic missile test.
Ahead of Thursday’s launch, the North’s foreign minister, Cho Son Hui, threatened to launch a “harsh” military response to the US to reinforce its security commitment to its allies South Korea and Japan.
Cho was referring to President Joe Biden’s recent trilateral summit with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts on the sidelines of a regional gathering in Cambodia. In their joint statement, the three leaders strongly condemned North Korea’s recent missile tests and agreed to work together to strengthen deterrence. Biden reaffirmed the US commitment to defend South Korea and Japan with the full range of capabilities, including their nuclear weapons.
Cho did not specify what steps North Korea might take, but said that “the US will know very well that this is a gamble it will surely regret.”
Pyongyang views the presence of US forces in the region as evidence of its hostility towards North Korea. It has said the recent series of weapons launches was a response to what it called provocative military exercises between the United States and South Korea.
There are concerns that North Korea could conduct its first nuclear test in five years as the next major step in ramping up its military capability against the United States and its allies.
North Korea has been under several rounds of UN sanctions over its past nuclear and missile tests. But no new sanctions have been imposed this year, although it has launched dozens of ballistic missiles, which are banned by UN Security Council resolutions.
This is possible because China and Russia, two of the veto-powerful members of the UN Council, oppose the new UN sanctions. Washington is in strategic competition with Beijing and at loggerheads with Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.