North Korea test-fired on Sunday a medium-range missile, US and South Korean officials said, the latest ballistics test for a country ramping up its development of nuclear weapons and missiles.
The missile was launched Sunday at about 4:59 p.m. Seoul time from a site in the vicinity of Puckchang county, which is home to North Korea’s largest power plant. It flew eastward about 500 kilometers (310 miles), said South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. The US Pacific Command said it tracked the missile before it landed into the sea.
South Korea said the missile, the second in a week and the eighth this year, dashed the hopes of the South’s new liberal government for peace between the neighbors. It described the launch, as “reckless and irresponsible” while the US military stressed “ironclad commitment” to defend its allies in the region.
A South Korean military official said the missile appeared to be an upgraded, extended-range version of the North’s solid-fuel submarine-launched missile. The missile fired a week ago flew was liquid-fueled, and flew further.
North Korea has disregarded all calls to rein in its nuclear and missile programs, even from China, its lone major ally, saying the weapons are needed for legitimate self-defense.
The reclusive state has been working to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of striking the US mainland. On Saturday, it said it had developed the capability to strike the US mainland, although Western missile experts say the claim is exaggerated.
A White House official visiting Saudi Arabia with Trump appeared to play down Sunday’s firing.
“We are aware that North Korea launched an MRBM (medium-range ballistic missile). This system, last tested in February, has a shorter range than the missiles launched in North Korea’s three most recent tests,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
The two missile tests in a week complicate plans by South Korea’s new President Moon Jae-in to seek ways to reduce tension on the peninsula. Moon took office eleven days ago after winning an election on a platform of a more moderate approach to the North, with which the South is still technically at war since no peace treaty was signed at the end of their 1950-1953 conflict.
South Korea’s foreign ministry said the tests were “reckless and irresponsible actions throwing cold water over the hopes and desires of this new government and the international community for denuclearization and peace on the Korean peninsula”.
In Tokyo, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe condemned the launch and said it was “obviously” violating the UN resolution and the “repeated provocative acts by North Korea are totally unacceptable.” He called it a “challenge to the world” that tramples international efforts to resolve the North Korean nuclear and missile problems peacefully and vowed to bring up the issue as the “main agenda” of this week’s G-7 summit in Italy.