North Korea fired a ballistic missile on Wednesday, South Korea’s military said, just a week after leader Kim Jong Un vowed to boost Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal at the “fastest possible speed”.
The launch was the latest in a string of sanctions-busting North Korean weapons tests so far this year, and came after US and South Korean officials warned Pyongyang was preparing to resume nuclear testing.
“One ballistic missile fired by North Korea today at 1203 (0303 GMT) from around Sunan towards the East Sea (Sea of Japan) was detected,” South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
“Currently, our military is maintaining readiness posture by tracking and monitoring related movements in preparation for additional launches.”
Japan’s Coast Guard also said that North Korea had launched “potentially a ballistic missile”. The Japanese Deputy Defence Minister Makoto Oniki said the missile is estimated to have flown at a maximum altitude of about 800 kilometres over a distance of about 500 kilometres before falling into the sea outside of Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
The nuclear-armed state staged a dramatic return to long-range launches in March, test-firing at full range its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile – which may be able to reach the continental United States.
Such tests had been paused while Kim met then-US President Donald Trump for a bout of diplomacy that collapsed in 2019.
Talks have stalled since, and despite biting sanctions, North Korea has doubled down on its military modernisation drive.
The launch is North Korea’s first since a military parade late on April 25, at which leader Kim Jong Un vowed to ramp up his development of nuclear arms. Among the weaponry on show at the parade in Pyongyang was a Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), multiple giant rocket launchers, and a submarine-launched ballistic missile.
“True peace can be trusted and national dignity and national sovereignty can be guaranteed by the powerful self-defence force that can overcome the enemy,” Kim said in a statement released by the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) after the parade. He said his nuclear force’s first mission was “to deter war,” but if anyone tried to “to take away the fundamental interests of our country, our nuclear force will have no choice but to carry out its second mission.” He did not elaborate on what that second mission would be.