North Korea fired a suspected intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Friday that landed just 200 kilometres off Japan and had sufficient range to reach the mainland of the United States, Japanese officials told Reuters.

Iran PressAsia: The launch — reported by both South Korean and Japanese officials — comes a day after a smaller missile launch by the North and its warning of “fiercer military responses” to the US boosting its regional security presence.

This has become a record-breaking year for the nuclear-armed country’s missile programme after it resumed testing ICBMs for the first time since 2017 and broke its self-imposed moratorium on long-range launches as denuclearisation talks stalled.

Japanese Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada told reporters that the latest missile was capable of flying as far as 15,000km.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said that it flew to an altitude of about 6,000km with a range of 1,000km, before landing in the sea roughly 200km west of Oshima-Oshima Island in Hokkaido.

North Korea often conducts its tests on such “lofted” trajectories where the missile flies much higher into space but to a shorter distance than it would if fired on a normal trajectory.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said there had been no reports of damage but the North’s repeated missile launches could not be tolerated.

Misawa Airbase — which hosts both Japanese and US troops — briefly issued an order to seek cover, according to a post on the base’s Facebook page.

Military drills

North Korea’s last suspected ICBM test was on Nov 3, when it fired multiple missiles into the sea in what it said was a protest against allied military drills by South Korea and the US.

Friday’s launch would be the eighth ICBM test this year by North Korea, based on a tally from the US State Department.

On Thursday, North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile while its foreign minister, Choe Son Hui, warned of “fiercer military responses” to US moves to boost its military presence, saying Washington was taking a “gamble it will regret”.

In a statement carried by state media, Choe condemned a Sunday trilateral summit of the US, South Korea and Japan during which those countries’ leaders pledged greater security cooperation.

Friday’s launch came as US Vice President Kamala Harris was in Thailand for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit — amid geopolitical tensions over the war in Ukraine and other flashpoints such as Taiwan and the Korean peninsula.

The North has also fired hundreds of artillery shells into the sea recently as South Korea and the US staged exercises, some of which involved Japan.


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