Seoul: North Korea launches suspected missile intended to hit US

SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea fired what it believed was a long-range missile intended to hit the US mainland on Friday, its neighbors said, a day after the North resumed its test activities in an apparent protest against US moves to harden its alliances with South Korea and Japan.

The South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that it had detected a ballistic missile launch off the North’s east coast on Friday morning. It was later said that the missile fired was likely an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Japan’s defense ministry also said in a statement that North Korea fired an ICBM-class ballistic missile from its western coastal zone that flew toward its eastern waters across the country. He said the missile, launched around 10:14 a.m. (01:14 GMT), was still in flight and could land in Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

If confirmed, it would be North Korea’s first intercontinental ballistic missile launch in about two weeks. Foreign experts said an intercontinental ballistic missile launched by North Korea on Nov. 3 failed to complete its intended flight.

The Nov. 3 test is believed to have involved a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile. North Korea has two other types of intercontinental ballistic missiles, the Hwasong-14 and Hwasong-15, and their test launches in 2017 proved that they could potentially reach parts of the US homeland.

Read more: The risk of nuclear war is now a daily issue for the Biden administration

South Korea’s presidential office said it had convened an emergency security meeting to discuss the North Korean launch.

“North Korea has repeatedly fired missiles this year with an unprecedented frequency and has greatly escalated tensions on the Korean Peninsula,” Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamad told reporters.

The launch is the latest in a series of missile tests by North Korea in recent weeks. But the country halted weapons launches for about a week before launching a short-range ballistic missile on Thursday.

Ahead of Thursday’s launch, the North’s foreign minister, Choe Song Hui, threatened to launch “harder” military responses by the US, which is stepping up its security commitment to its allies South Korea and Japan.

Chow was referring to US President Joe Biden’s recent trilateral summit with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts on the sidelines of a regional meeting 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 a full range of capabilities, including its nuclear weapons.

Chow did not say what steps North Korea might take, but said “the US will know full well that they are taking a gamble, which they will surely regret.”

The North argues the US military presence in the region as proof of its hostility to the country. She said her recent spate of weapons launches was a response to what she called provocative military exercises between the United States and South Korea.

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