North Korea launches suspected intermediate range ballistic missile capable of reaching

North Korea launches suspected intermediate-range ballistic missile capable of reaching distant US bases – ABC News

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea fired a suspected intermediate-range ballistic missile into the sea on Sunday, the South Korean military said, two months after North Korea claimed it had tested engines for a new, harder-to-detect missile that can reach distant targets. Destinations in the region.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff described the launch as a provocation that posed a serious threat to peace on the Korean Peninsula. It said the South Korean military would maintain its readiness to respond overwhelmingly to any provocations by North Korea.

The South Korean assessment suggests that North Korea could have fired a new medium-range ballistic missile, whose solid-fuel engine the North said it tested in mid-November.

The missile is expected to hit primarily U.S. military bases in the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, which is about 3,400 kilometers (2,110 miles) from Pyongyang, the North's capital. With a range adjustment, the missile can also be used to attack closer targets – the US military installations on the Japanese island of Okinawa, according to Chang Young-keun, a missile expert at the Korea Research Institute for National Strategy in Seoul.

Built-in solid propellants make rocket launches harder to detect than liquid rockets, which require refueling before launch and cannot last long. North Korea has a growing arsenal of solid-fuel short-range missiles targeting South Korea, but its existing Hwasong-12 medium-range missile is powered by liquid-fuel engines.

Japan's Defense Ministry said its analysis showed the missile traveled at least 500 kilometers (300 miles) at the maximum altitude of 50 kilometers (30 miles). This data suggests that North Korea may have fired a short-range missile, not a medium-range missile.

Japan and South Korea said they had closely shared information with the United States about the launch but did not immediately explain the discrepancy in the dates.

In a trilateral conversation later on Sunday, senior diplomats from South Korea, the United States and Japan condemned the North Korean launch and stressed that a North Korean provocation would lead to the three countries strengthening their security cooperation, according to the South Korean Foreign Ministry.

The last time North Korea conducted a missile launch was on Dec. 18, when it test-fired its Hwasong-18 solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile, the North's most advanced weapon. The Hwasong-18 is the country's only known solid-fuel ICBM and is designed to attack the American mainland

On January 5, North Korea fired an artillery shell near the disputed western maritime border with South Korea, prompting South Korea to conduct similar target practice in the same area. It is here that the navies of the two Koreas have fought three bloody naval battles since 1999, and attacks attributed to North Korea left 50 South Koreans dead in 2010.

In recent days, North Korea has also stepped up its bellicose, inflammatory rhetoric against its enemies ahead of elections in South Korea and the United States. Last week, leader Kim Jong Un called South Korea “our main enemy” and threatened to destroy it if provoked.

Kim has been pushing hard to expand his nuclear and missile arsenals since the collapse of his high-level diplomacy with Trump in 2019. In recent months, North Korea has also expanded its military and other cooperation with Russia.

North Korea and Russia announced on Sunday that North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui will visit Russia from Monday to Wednesday at the invitation of her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

“Pyongyang’s show of force should be a concern beyond Seoul because its military cooperation with Moscow is exacerbating violence in Ukraine and because the country may be more willing to challenge the U.S. and its allies as global attention turns to the Middle East ,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.


Associated Press writer Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.