SEOUL : Saturday, near the west coast of Japan, North Korea fired a long-range ballistic missile into the sea after threatening a harsh retaliation to forthcoming military exercises by South Korea and the United States.
More than an hour after launch, Japanese officials said the missile crashed into seas inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone, indicating it was one of Pyongyang’s biggest missiles.
According to Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kisihda, the missile seemed to be an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). At a briefing, he said that Japan strongly denounced the launch, describing it as a menace to the world community.
According to Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada, the missile seems to have a range of more than 14,000 kilometres (8,700 miles), which is adequate to reach the United States’ mainland.
There were no early reports of damage to ships or planes, according to Tokyo.
The joint chiefs of staff in South Korea, which condemned the launch as a “obvious violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions,” said that the missile flew around 900 kilometres (560 miles) before crashing into the ocean.
North Korea’s first missile launch since January 1 occurred after Pyongyang promised on Friday a “unprecedentedly persistent, forceful” reaction as South Korea and the United States prepare for annual military drills to combat the North’s rising nuclear and missile threats.
After Saturday’s launch, the National Security Council of South Korea conducted a meeting and resolved to boost security cooperation with the United States and Japan.
The US Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement that the US would continue to defend Japan and South Korea.
The statement said, “Although we have determined that this occurrence does not represent an imminent danger to U.S. people, territories, or allies, we will continue to monitor the situation.”
Solid-fuel missile progress?
Nuclear-armed North Korea launched a record number of missiles in 2018, including intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching anyplace in the United States, and resumed preparations for its first nuclear test since 2017.
The missile was fired from the Sunan region near Pyongyang, according to the South Korean military. Sunan is the location of the Pyongyang International Airport, where the majority of North Korea’s recent ICBM testing were performed.
UN Security Council resolutions prohibit North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programmes, but Pyongyang claims its weapons development is vital to counter “hostile activities” by the United States and its allies.
Deterrence Strategy Committee Tabletop Exercise nuclear exercises are slated on Wednesday at the Pentagon and will include senior defence officials from both sides, according to Seoul’s Defense Ministry.
In the following weeks and months, the two nations are also preparing a variety of extended field exercises, including live-fire drills.
As a remnant of the 1950-1953 Korean War, which concluded in an armistice rather than a peace treaty, keeping the countries nominally at war, around 28,500 American soldiers are stationed in South Korea.
In keeping with its recent military reorganisation, Pyongyang may have formed a military unit charged with operating new intercontinental ballistic missiles, according to official television footage from a February 9 parade.
This parade included a record number of intercontinental ballistic missiles, including a suspected new solid-fuel weapon that might allow the North deploy its missiles more quickly in the event of a conflict.
Professor of international studies at Ewha University in Seoul, Leif-Eric Easley, said that Pyongyang’s claims of progress with a long-range solid-fuel missile would be noteworthy.