Japan: N Korea missile test shows potential ability to hit US

It is North Korea’s second major weapons test this month, demonstrating its determination to develop weapons systems that target the US mainland.

TOKYO, Japan – North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile that landed in waters off Japan on Friday in its second major weapons test this month, demonstrating a potential capability to strike the entire US mainland.

The US quickly condemned the launch and vowed to take “all necessary measures” to ensure the security of the mainland and its allies South Korea and Japan. Vice President Kamala Harris will meet separately with the leaders of Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, who are attending a regional forum in Bangkok to discuss North Korea’s recent ballistic missile launch.

The North’s continued frenzy of weapons testing aims to advance its nuclear arsenal and win greater concessions in potential diplomacy, and comes as China and Russia have resisted U.S. moves to tighten sanctions aimed at curbing North Korea’s nuclear program.

South Korea’s Chiefs of Staff said they detected an ICBM launch from North Korea’s capital at around 10:15 a.m. and the weapon flew toward the North’s east coast over the country. Japan said the ICBM appeared to fly on a high trajectory and land west of Hokkaido.

According to South Korean and Japanese estimates, the North Korean missile flew about 6,000 to 6,100 kilometers (3,600 to 3,790 miles) at a maximum altitude of 1,000 kilometers (620 miles).

Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada told reporters that the height suggested the missile was launched from a high angle. He said that depending on the weight of the warhead placed on the missile, the weapon would have a range of more than 15,000 kilometers (9,320 miles), “so it could cover the entire continental United States.”

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US National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said the launch “unnecessarily inflames tensions and threatens to destabilize” regional security while showing the North is prioritizing illegal weapons programs over human well-being. He said President Joe Biden was told about the launch.

“Pyongyang must immediately stop its destabilizing actions and instead opt for diplomatic cooperation,” Watson said. “The United States will take all necessary steps to ensure the security of the American homeland and its allies in the Republic of Korea and Japan.”

Japanese Defense Minister Hamada called the launch “a reckless act that threatens Japan, the region and the international community.”

South Korea’s chiefs of staff called the launch a “serious provocation and serious threat” that undermines international and regional peace and security. It said South Korea remains ready to give an “overwhelming response to any provocation by North Korea” in close cooperation with the United States.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol ordered officials to step up trilateral security cooperation with the United States and Japan and implement unspecified deterrence measures previously agreed to with the United States. According to his office, Yoon also ordered officials to demand strong international judgments and sanctions against North Korea.

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North Korea also launched an ICBM on Nov. 3, but experts said the weapon missed its intended flight and fell into the sea after phase separation. That test was believed to have involved an ICBM in development called the Hwasong-17. North Korea has two other types of ICBMs – the Hwasong-14 and Hwasong-15 – and their test launches in 2017 showed that they could reach parts of the US homeland.

The Hwasong-17 has a longer potential range than the others, and its sheer size suggests it is designed to carry multiple nuclear warheads to defeat missile defense systems. Some experts say the Nov. 3 test showed some technical progress in the development of the Hwasong-17, given that the missile exploded in its previous test in March shortly after liftoff.

It was not immediately known if North Korea would launch the Hwasong-17 missile again on Friday or something else.

In recent months, North Korea has conducted dozens of shorter-range missile tests, which it called simulations, at targets in South Korea and the United States. But it had halted weapons launches for about a week before it fired a short-range ballistic missile on Thursday.

Ahead of Thursday’s launch, North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui threatened to launch “harder” military responses to the United States to reinforce its security commitment to allies South Korea and Japan.

Choe referred to President Biden’s recent trilateral summit with Yoon and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida during a regional meeting in Cambodia. In a joint statement, the three leaders strongly condemned North Korea’s recent missile tests and agreed to work together to strengthen deterrence. Biden reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to defend South Korea and Japan with all capabilities, including its nuclear weapons.

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Choe did not say what actions North Korea might take, but said “the US is well aware that it is a gamble that it will certainly regret.”

Pyongyang views the US military presence in the region as evidence of its hostility towards North Korea. It has said its recent launches were its response to provocative military exercises between the United States and South Korea.

There have been concerns that North Korea could conduct its first nuclear test in five years, the next major step in bolstering its military capability against the United States and its allies.

North Korea has been under several UN sanctions due to its past nuclear and missile tests. However, no new sanctions have been applied this year, even though it has carried out dozens of ballistic missile launches, which are banned by UN Security Council resolutions.

It is possible because China and Russia, two veto-wielding members of the UN Council, oppose new UN sanctions. Washington is locked in a strategic rivalry with Beijing and a clash with Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.


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