North Korea fires what appears to be a long-range ballistic missile, second in less than 12 hours

North Korea fires what appears to be a long-range ballistic missile, second in less than 12 hours
North Korea fires what appears to be a long-range ballistic missile, second in less than 12 hours

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - People watch a TV broadcasting a news report on North Korea firing what appeared to be a long-range ballistic missile, at a railway station in Seoul December 18, 2023. — Yonhap pic via Reuters

SEOUL, Dec 18 — North Korea fired what appeared to be a long-range ballistic missile today, South Korea and Japan said, its second missile launch in less than 12 hours as Pyongyang condemned a US-led show of force against the nuclear armed state.

The missile was fired from an area near the capital Pyongyang towards the sea off the North’s east coast and flew about 1,000km, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

Japan’s coast guard said the suspected missile fell into the sea west of Hokkaido about an hour after launch.

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Japan’s NHK broadcaster said the missile reached a maximum altitude of more than 6,000km, citing government officials.

NHK reported officials as saying it was likely an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which would underscore the North’s efforts to advance its arsenal with longer range weapons that could potentially reach the mainland United States.

A missile fired at a lofted trajectory with such an apogee likely means the projectile is capable of reaching 15,000km on a normal trajectory, according to expert analysis of previous North Korean long-range missile test launches.

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The area near the international airport serving Pyongyang is where the North previously launched ICBMs and is suspected to be the location of a missile assembly facility.

Last week, South Korea’s deputy national security advisor said the North may be readying to launch an ICBM this month, declining to provide any details.

Today’s missile launch came after North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile last night, flying about 570km and falling into the ocean.

North Korea followed up that launch with a fiery statement condemning the United States for orchestrating what it called a “preview of a nuclear war,” including the arrival of a nuclear-powered submarine in South Korea yesterday.

US submarine visits South Korea

On Friday, following a high-level meeting by US and South Korean officials on the use of US strategic military weapons to deter North Korea’s military threat, Washington warned any nuclear attack would lead to the end of the regime.

South Korea condemned the latest missile launches as a violation of UN Security Council resolutions that ban the use of ballistic missile technology, which Pyongyang rejects as an infringement of its right to self defence.

After the late-night launch, North Korea’s defence ministry criticised “military gangsters” in the United States and South Korea for raising tensions with drills, displays of force, and nuclear war planning.

The statement by an unnamed ministry spokesman cited the arrival of the US nuclear-powered submarine Missouri in the South Korean port city of Busan yesterday.

Visits by US nuclear submarines had previously been rare, but they have increased under agreements between Seoul and Washington that have boosted the arrivals of US military assets.

The USS Carl Vinson, a US aircraft carrier, also arrived at Busan last month as part of an effort to increase deterrence against North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes.

The North Korean defence ministry also condemned the meeting by South Korean and US officials in Washington as yet another sign of efforts to streamline war preparations and a provocative show of force.

The United States and South Korea have increased the intensity of joint military drills against rising threats from the North, which had tested a range of ballistic missiles and in November launched its first military spy satellite.

Pyongyang tested a long-range ballistic missile in July, which analysts said was a successful launch of a solid-fuel ICBM that flew on a lofted trajectory and reached an altitude of 6,648km before dropping into the sea east of the Korean Peninsula. — Reuters

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