North Korea says it has test-launched a missile capable of reaching the US territory of Guam in its most significant weapon launch in years.
The intermediate-range ballistic missile launch yesterday (Sunday, January 30) could be a prelude to bigger provocations.
It is feared Kim Jong-un’s regime could follow up with nuclear and long-range missile tests that pose a direct threat to the US mainland, trying to put pressure on the Biden administration.
Some experts say North Korea’s recent testing spree is meant to win sanction relief or international recognition as a legitimate nuclear state.
The official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the purpose of the test was verifying the overall accuracy of the Hwasong-12 missile that is being deployed in its military.
North Korea said the missile was launched toward waters off its east coast on a high angle to prevent flying over other countries. It gave no further details.
According to South Korean and Japanese assessments, the missile flew about 500 miles before landing between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.
The reported flight details make it the most powerful missile North Korea has tested since 2017.
The Hwasong-12 is a nuclear-capable ground-to-ground weapon with a maximum range of 2,800 miles, sufficient to reach Guam, where the US has military bases.
In August 2017, at the height of animosities with the Trump administration, North Korea threatened to make “an enveloping fire” near Guam with Hwasong-12 missiles.
In 2017, North Korea also test-fired intercontinental ballistic missiles called Hwasong-14 and Hwasong-15 that experts say demonstrated their potential capacity to reach the mainland US.
Yesterday’s launch was North Korea’s seventh round of missile launches in January alone, and other weapons tested recently include a developmental hypersonic missile and a submarine-launched missile.
White House officials said yesterday they saw the latest missile test as part of an escalating series of provocations over the last several months that have become increasingly concerning.
The US plans to respond to the latest missile test in the coming days with an unspecified move meant to demonstrate to the North that the US government is committed to allies’ security in the region, according to a senior administration official.
The US called on North Korea to return to talks but made clear it does not see the sort of leader-to-leader summits Donald Trump held with Kim as constructive at this time.
South Korean and Japanese officials also condemned yesterday’s launch, which violated UN Security Council resolutions that bans the country from testing ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons.
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