North Korea launched an apparent new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) early Wednesday that reached an altitude of about 4,500 kilometers and traveled 960 kilometers before falling into the East Sea inside Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
The missile launch, which broke a 75-day lull in the North’s provocations, drew strong condemnation from South Korea as well as the international community, reports The Korea Times.
The provocation is likely to escalate tension on the Korean Peninsula further and dash hopes for a negotiated solution to the North’s nuclear and missile development programs. The international community is expected to impose harsher sanctions against Pyongyang.
Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missile was launched at 3:17 a.m. from Pyongsong, South Pyongan Province, 30 kilometers north of Pyongyang.
Hours after the launch, the North issued a statement, saying a test of the new “Hwasong-15” ICBM was successfully carried out.
The statement, carried by the state-run Korea Central News Agency, said the missile reached a maximum altitude of 4,475 kilometers, while flying 960 kilometers in 53 minutes along a preset trajectory.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who observed the test, declared that the North has “finally realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force, the cause of building a rocket power,” according to the KCNA.
“The ICBM Hwasong-15 type weaponry system is an intercontinental ballistic rocket tipped with super-large heavy warhead which is capable of striking the entire mainland of the U.S. ,” the statement said.
It added the new system has much greater advantages in its tactical and technological characteristics than the Hwasong-14 missile tested in July.
The repressive state launched Hwasong-14s twice, July 4 and 28. The first one flew 933 kilometers in 39 minutes and reached an altitude of 2,802 kilometers, while the second one flew 998 kilometers in 47 minutes after reaching an altitude of 3,724 kilometers.
Defense analysts said the North’s latest test appeared to be its longest yet, noting that if the missile had been fired on a standard trajectory, rather than a lofted one, it could have flown more than 10,000 kilometers, which is, in theory, enough to reach the U.S. mainland.
“If flown on a standard trajectory rather than this lofted trajectory, this missile would have a range of more than 13,000 kilometers,” said David Wright, a co-director of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “This is significantly longer than North Korea’s previous long-range tests.”
Soon after the test, President Moon Jae-in presided over a National Security Council meeting at Cheong Wa Dae, during which he strongly denounced the North for its “military brinkmanship.”—Agencies