North Korea fires ICBM and lands near Japan

North Korea fired an ICBM on Friday in one of its most powerful tests ever, with Japan saying the weapon could have had the range to hit the mainland United States.

The missile is believed to have landed in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said, calling the launch “absolutely unacceptable”.

The launch is Pyongyang’s second in two days and part of a record-breaking lightning strike in recent weeks that North Korea – and some allies including Moscow – have accused the US of strengthening regional security cooperation, including joint military exercises.

The missile flew 1,000 km (621 miles) at an altitude of 6,100 km, the South Korean military said, only slightly less than the ICBM launched on March 24.

Later Friday, Tokyo and Washington conducted joint military exercises in the airspace over the Sea of ​​Japan.

“The Japan Self-Defense Forces and US forces conducted a bilateral exercise … amidst an increasingly stringent security environment around Japan,” said a joint statement from Japan’s defense ministry.

“This bilateral exercise reaffirms the strong will between Japan and the United States to respond to any situation.”

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US Vice President Kamala Harris called a meeting on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific summit in Bangkok to discuss the launch with regional leaders.

“We condemn in the strongest terms these actions and we reiterate our calls on North Korea to cease further unlawful, destabilizing activities,” Harris said.

North Korea, led by Kim Jong Un, has launched dozens of ballistic missiles this year – far more than any year on record – and recent launches have been increasingly provocative, including launching a missile over Japan last month, which some rare air raid triggered warning.

On November 2, Pyongyang fired 23 rockets, including one that effectively crossed the sea border and landed near southern territorial waters for the first time since the end of Korean War hostilities in 1953. Seoul called it “effectively a territorial invasion.” .

The next day, North Korea fired an ICBM – although Seoul said it appeared to fail in mid-flight.

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Tokyo’s Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said Friday’s ICBM was launched on a “raised trajectory,” meaning the missile is launched rather than launched, typically to avoid overflying neighboring countries.

He said their calculations showed the missile “could have had a range of 15,000km, depending on the weight of its warhead, and if that’s the case, that means the US mainland was within its range.”

The launch comes a day after North Korea launched a short-range ballistic missile, which Pyongyang said was in response to Sunday talks between Seoul, Tokyo and Washington.

The North’s foreign minister, Choe Son Hui, had warned that Pyongyang would take “tougher” military action if the US implemented plans to strengthen its “enhanced deterrent” commitment to regional allies.

– “A clear message” –

In addition to talks with Seoul and Tokyo leaders, US President Joe Biden discussed North Korea’s recent missile tests with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping earlier this week amid mounting fears the reclusive regime will soon conduct its seventh nuclear test.

The launches are “a clear message to the US and Japan,” said Han Kwon-hee, manager of the Missile Strategy Forum, adding the launches are “part of the North’s response to recent talks.”

Pyongyang is trying to show the South and America that its “missiles can easily breach their defense systems no matter how hard the two try to improve them,” Han added.

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Washington has responded to North Korea’s anti-sanctions missile tests by expanding exercises with South Korea, including using a strategic bomb, and by seeking to increase the protection it offers Seoul and Tokyo.

China, Pyongyang’s main diplomatic and economic ally, joined Russia in May in vetoing a US-led proposal at the UN Security Council to tighten sanctions on North Korea.

Experts say North Korea is jumping at the opportunity to conduct banned missile tests and is confident of avoiding further UN sanctions over Ukraine-linked UN deadlock.

“I see this type of loft ICBM testing primarily as a development purpose,” said Ankit Panda, Stanton Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“Kim will test a nuclear weapon at a time of his choosing. North Korea may conduct such a test without notice.”

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