North Korea has conducted a missile test, firing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that flew for over 70 minutes, according to Japan’s Defense Ministry.
The launch, which landed in waters near Japan, signifies a potential escalation in confrontation with the United States and its allies. North Korea had previously threatened to shoot down US military reconnaissance aircraft engaged in what it labeled “hostile espionage” near its territory.
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This missile launch and the accompanying fiery rhetoric from Pyongyang come at a time of heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula as the defense cooperation between the US and South Korea intensifies. The timing of the launch appears to coincide with the NATO summit in Lithuania, where leaders from South Korea, Japan, and the US are discussing security matters, including the threat posed by North Korea.
The missile, which flew a distance of 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) and reached an altitude of over 6,000 kilometers (3,700 miles), is believed to be the developmental Hwasong-18 ICBM. This solid-fuel weapon is considered harder to detect and intercept compared to North Korea’s other liquid-fuel ICBMs. However, there is no evidence to suggest that the missile can successfully deliver a nuclear payload.
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South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol held an emergency National Security Council meeting in response to the missile launch during the NATO summit. Yoon expressed his intention to call for strong international solidarity against North Korea’s actions. Meanwhile, the NATO meeting issued a communiqué urging North Korea to abandon its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs.
North Korea’s launch and its accusations against the US spy plane follow a pattern of inflating external threats to consolidate domestic support and justify weapons tests. The US and South Korea dismissed the accusations and called on North Korea to refrain from creating tensions with baseless claims.