Seoul, South Korea — North Korea fired a long-range missile meant to strike the mainland United States on Friday, its neighbors said, a day after the North resumed testing activities in an apparent protest against US moves to shore up alliances with South Korea and Japan.
The Southern Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that it detected a ballistic missile launch off the northern east coast on Friday morning. He then said the missile launched was likely an intercontinental ballistic missile.
Japan’s Defense Ministry also said in a statement that North Korea fired an ICBM-class ballistic missile from its western coastal area that flew into its eastern waters through the country. He said the missile, launched around 10:14 a.m. (0114GMT) was still airborne and could land inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
If confirmed, it would be North Korea’s first ICBM launch in about two weeks. Outside experts said an ICBM launched by North Korea on Nov. 3 did not complete its intended flight.
The November 3 test would have involved a new type of development ICBM. North Korea has two other types of ICBMs – Hwasong-14 and Hwasong-15 and their launch tests in 2017 proved that they could potentially reach parts of the American homeland.
South Korea’s presidential office said it called an emergency security meeting to discuss the North Korean launch.
“North Korea has repeatedly fired missiles this year with unprecedented frequency and is greatly escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula,” Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamad told reporters.
The launch is the latest in a series of missile tests by North Korea in recent weeks. But the country had halted weapons launches for about a week before firing a short-range ballistic missile on Thursday.
Ahead of Thursday’s launch, the North’s Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui threatened to launch “more fierce” military responses to the United States bolstering its security commitment to its allies South Korea and Japan.
Choe was referring to US President Joe Biden’s recent trilateral summit with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts on the sidelines of a regional gathering in Cambodia. In their joint statement, the three leaders strongly condemned North Korea’s recent missile tests and agreed to work together to strengthen deterrence. Biden reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to defending South Korea and Japan with a full range of capabilities, including its nuclear weapons.
Choe did not say what action North Korea might take, but said “the United States will be well aware that they are playing, which they will certainly regret.”
The North has argued a US military presence in the region as evidence of its hostility to the country. He said his recent series of weapons launches were a response to what he called provocative military exercises between the United States and South Korea.