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North Korea continues missile barrage with suspected ICBM


SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea fired three more missiles on Thursday, including a suspected intercontinental ballistic missile, the governments of South Korea and Japan said, continuing to escalate tensions a day after launching a record least 23 missiles in a single day.

Fear that one of the missiles could fly over Japan prompted the government to activate its early warning system, urging residents of the northern prefectures of Miyagi, Yamagata and Niigata to take shelter indoors or underground. Officials later said the missile did not fly over Japan and disappeared over water.

North Korea has stepped up its weapons tests and heated rhetoric as the United States and South Korea continue large-scale joint military exercises this week. The tests are seen as an effort by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to expand his regime’s nuclear arsenal, pressure the United States to ease crippling sanctions and gain international acceptance as a as a nuclear state.

The suspected long-range ballistic missile was fired out to sea at 7:40 a.m. (6:40 p.m. Wednesday ET) from the Sunan area of ​​Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said. Koreans. An hour later, North Korea fired two suspected short-range ballistic missiles seaward from the Gaechon area in the southern province of Pyongan.

In a statement late Wednesday, Washington time, the State Department condemned North Korea’s launch of intercontinental ballistic missiles, calling it a flagrant violation of several UN Security Council resolutions. He said the launch underscores the need for all countries to fully implement these resolutions, “which seek to prohibit (North Korea) from acquiring the technologies and materials needed to perform these destabilizing tests.”

He said US commitments to the defense of South Korea and Japan remained “ironclad”.

South Korea’s military said it has strengthened surveillance and control in close cooperation with the United States and is maintaining military preparedness for all situations.

Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said one of the missiles reached an altitude of 1,242 miles and traveled 466 miles, landing in waters west of Japan. It may have been a medium- or long-range missile, he said.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff provided similar figures, saying the missile reached an altitude of 1,193 miles and traveled 472 miles at around Mach 5.

North Korea last tested an intercontinental ballistic missile in March, its first such test since 2017. US and South Korean officials said the country was also preparing for its seventh nuclear test, which would also be the first since 2017.

Early last month, North Korea sent an intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan in its longest-ever weapons test. The nuclear-capable missile has the range to reach the US territory of Guam in the Pacific.

Tensions were already rising on Wednesday when South Korea responded to North Korea’s barrage by firing its own air-to-surface missiles. Missiles from both countries landed in international waters across their disputed maritime border, but not on their actual territory.

South Korea is in a period of national mourning after the Halloween crowd crush in Seoul killed 156 people. President Yoon Suk Yeol’s government has been criticized for the police’s inability to prevent the tragedy.

In addition to enhancing its military capabilities, missile testing also serves the North’s political goals, said Leif-Eric Easley, associate professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.

“From Pyongyang’s perspective, the unpopularity of the Yoon administration appears as an opportunity to coerce the South Korean public into opposing security cooperation with Washington,” he said by email. -mail. “Meanwhile, firing at Japan may be interpreted as a threat not to be involved in the security of the Korean Peninsula.”

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