North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Friday that fell off the coast of Japan, the latest in a record slew of projectile launches in recent weeks, as Seoul, Tokyo and Washington expect an imminent nuclear test by Pyongyang.
The South Korean general staff “detected an alleged long-range ballistic missile launched around 10:15 a.m. (0115 GMT) from the Sunan area in Pyongyang towards the East Sea”, he said in referring to the Korean name for the Sea of Japan.
Tokyo said the missile had traveled about 1,000 km and that Japanese forces had not attempted to destroy it in flight. Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said the projectile had reached a maximum altitude of 6,000 km, deducing that it was an “ICBM-class ballistic missile, although other details are being analyzed.
“The ballistic missile launched by North Korea appears to have fallen into our exclusive economic zone off Hokkaido”, the large island in the north of the Japanese archipelago, said Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
This is not the first time that a North Korean projectile has ended its course in the Japanese exclusive economic zone (EEZ), that is to say the maritime space which extends up to 200 nautical miles ( 370 km) beyond the coasts of a State, between territorial waters and international waters.
“Acts of provocation”
North Korea “repeats acts of provocation with unprecedented frequency. We strongly reiterate that this is absolutely unacceptable”, denounced Mr. Kishida.
On November 3, North Korea had already launched an ICBM but that launch had apparently failed, according to Seoul and Tokyo. The country had broken last March a moratorium that it had imposed on itself in 2017 on the launches of this type of long-range missile.
North Korea had already fired a short-range ballistic missile on Thursday, hours after a warning from its foreign minister who had promised a “fierce” response to the strengthening of the security alliance between Seoul, Tokyo and Washington .
The United States, South Korea and Japan have intensified joint military maneuvers in recent months in the face of threats from North Korea, which sees these drills as dress rehearsals for an invasion of its territory or an overthrow of the regime. by Kim Jong Un.
“Strong and firm response”
During a meeting Tuesday on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali, US President Joe Biden tried to convince his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to intercede with North Korea to end the escalation and renounces carrying out a nuclear test, as Washington and Seoul lend him the intention.
Mr. Biden, his South Korean counterpart Yoon Suk-yeol and Mr. Kishida also promised a “strong and firm” response on Sunday if Pyongyang carries out this test, which would be the first since 2017 and the seventh in its history.
North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui replied that the strengthening of the military alliance between Seoul, Tokyo and Washington was “entering the situation on the Korean peninsula into an unpredictable phase”.
The more Washington tries to strengthen this alliance, “the fiercer the DPRK’s military response will be,” Choe said, using the acronym Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, North Korea’s official name.
North Korea carried out an unprecedented flurry of projectile launches in early November, including a missile that fell near South Korea’s territorial waters for the first time since the end of the Korean War in 1953 President Yoon denounced a “de facto territorial invasion”.
November 2 alone saw 23 North Korean missile launches, more than all of 2017, when leader Kim Jong Un and then-US President Donald Trump traded threats of nuclear war.
In September and October, Pyongyang had already carried out a copious series of firings, including that of a medium-range ballistic missile which had flown over Japan for the first time in five years.
Pyongyang justified its November show of force by the “aggressive and provocative” attitude of Seoul and Washington, which at the same time carried out the largest air maneuvers ever carried out between them, including stealth planes and strategic bombers. .
Analysts say North Korea, which under UN resolutions is barred from launching ballistic missiles, has become emboldened by the likelihood of escaping any further UN sanctions due divisions in the Security Council where China and Russia block any American attempt in this direction.
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