SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile that landed near Japanese waters Friday in its second major weapons test this month, demonstrating a potential ability to sustain nuclear strikes on the entire U.S. mainland. launch.
The United States quickly condemned the launch, vowing to take “all necessary measures” to ensure the security of its territory and its allies South Korea and Japan. Vice President Kamala Harris met with leaders from those countries and from Australia, Canada and New Zealand who are attending a regional forum in Bangkok to discuss the launch.
“We again call on North Korea to stop further unlawful, destabilizing acts. On behalf of the United States, I reaffirm our strong commitment to our Indo-Pacific alliances,” Harris said at the start of the meeting. “Together, the countries represented here will continue to urge North Korea to commit to serious and sustainable diplomacy.”
North Korea’s recent torrid series of weapons tests aims to expand its nuclear arsenal and make greater concessions in future diplomacy. It comes as China and Russia have resisted US moves to tighten UN sanctions aimed at curbing North Korea’s nuclear program.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said it detected the ICBM launch from North Korea’s capital at around 10:15 am. Japan said it appeared to be flying on a high runway and landed west of its island of Hokkaido.
According to South Korean and Japanese estimates, the missile flew 6,000–6,100 kilometers (3,600–3,790 mi) at a maximum altitude of 1,000 kilometers (620 mi).
Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said that, depending on the weight of a potential warhead, the missile had a range of more than 15,000 kilometers (9,320 mi), “in which case it could cover the entire mainland United States. “
US National Security Council spokesman Adrienne Watson said the launch “unnecessarily heightens tensions” and demonstrates North Korea’s prioritization of illegal weapons programs over the well-being of its people. “Pyongyang must immediately stop its destabilizing actions and instead opt for diplomatic involvement,” Watson said.
In his opening speech at the Bangkok meeting, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida called the launch “completely unacceptable”, saying the missile fell in Japan’s exclusive economic zone west of Hokkaido. South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo said the international community must work together to make North Korea realize that each of its provocations only exacerbates its international isolation and economic hardship.
Later on Friday, South Korea’s military said its F-35 fighter jets were conducting exercises simulating airstrikes against North Korean mobile missile launchers at a firing range near the land border with North Korea. It said a group of eight South Korean and US fighter jets were separately conducting flight training off the east coast of the Korean peninsula.
The exercises “demonstrated our determination to deal rigorously with an ICBM launch and all other provocations and threats from North Korea, and the overwhelming capacity and willingness of the Allies to deliver precision strikes against the enemy,” the statement said. Joint Chiefs of Staff of South Korea. said in a statement.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol has previously ordered officials to strengthen security cooperation with the United States and Japan and implement unspecified deterrent measures previously agreed with Washington. Yoon also ordered officials to push for strong international condemnations and sanctions against North Korea, his office said.
North Korea also launched an ICBM on Nov. 3, but experts said the weapon failed to make its intended flight and fell into the ocean after phase separation. That test would have involved a development missile called Hwasong-17. North Korea has two other types of ICBMs – Hwasong-14 and Hwasong-15 – and their test launches in 2017 showed they could potentially reach parts of the US homeland.
The Hwasong-17 has a longer range than the others, and its sheer size suggests it was designed to carry multiple warheads to defeat missile defense systems. Some experts say the Nov. 3 test showed some progress in its development, given that a Hwansong-17 exploded shortly after launch in an earlier test in March.
It was not immediately known whether North Korea launched a Hwasong-17 missile or something else on Friday.
In recent months, North Korea has conducted dozens of tests of shorter-range missiles, which it called simulations of nuclear strikes against South Korean and US targets.. But it stopped launching weapons for about a week before firing a short-range ballistic missile on Thursday.
Before that launch, North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui threatened “harder” military responses to US moves to strengthen its security commitments to South Korea and Japan.
Choe was referring to President Joe Biden’s recent meeting with Yoon and Kishida on the sidelines of a regional meeting 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 US commitment to defend South Korea and Japan with a full range of capabilities, including nuclear weapons.
Choe did not describe what steps North Korea could take, but said that “the US will be well aware that it is gambling, which it will surely regret.”
North Korea sees the US military presence in the region as evidence of US hostility. It has said its recent string of weapons launches came in response to what it called provocative military exercises between the United States and South Korea.
There were concerns that North Korea could conduct its first nuclear test in five years as the next big step in strengthening its military capability against the United States and its allies.
North Korea is subject to multiple rounds of United Nations sanctions over its past nuclear and missile tests. But this year no new sanctions have been imposed as it has carried out dozens of ballistic missile launches, which are banned by UN Security Council resolutions.
China and Russia, two vetoed members of the Security Council, are opposed to new UN sanctions. Washington is engaged in a strategic competition with Beijing and in a confrontation with Moscow over the invasion of Ukraine.
Yamaguchi reported from Tokyo. Associated Press writer Krutika Pathi in Bangkok contributed to this report.