North Korea test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile in a show of military power on Thursday just hours before the leaders of South Korea and Japan are due to meet at a Tokyo summit expected to be overshadowed by North Korea’s nuclear threats.
The launch, the North’s first ICBM test in a month and third missile test this week, also came as South Korean and US militaries continued joint military exercises that Pyongyang considers a repeat attack.
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South Korea’s military said a North Korean ICBM flew into waters east of the Korean Peninsula after being launched from the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, at around 7.10 a.m. The statement said the South Korean military is maintaining readiness. closer integration with the United States.
The Sunan area is the site of Pyongyang’s international airport and has emerged as a major test site where the North has launched most of its ICBMs in recent years, all flying at a high angle to avoid the territory of its neighbors.
Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said the missile likely landed in waters outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone after an hour-long flight. The landing site is about 250 kilometers (155 miles) off the western island of Oshimaoshima, which is close to where other North Korean ICBMs have crashed in recent months after test flights.
Thursday’s launch comes hours before South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol will travel to Tokyo for a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida aimed at repairing damaged ties and establishing a trilateral defense cooperation with the United States to address North Korean threats.
After conducting a record number of missile tests last year, North Korea has expanded its testing activities this year, including the December 18 launch of its Hwasong-15 ICBM which was designed to strike the US mainland. After that ICBM launch, North Korea said the test was meant to boost its “deadly” nuclear strike capability against its rivals.
The North’s ongoing offensive of highly anticipated weapons tests; leader Kim Jong Un last week ordered his military to be ready to reject what he called “aggressive war preparations” by his country’s rivals, referring to large-scale ongoing exercises between the US and South Korea.
Pyongyang earlier this week fired cruise missiles from a submarine and sent short-range ballistic missiles across its territory into its eastern sea. Last week, North Korea also fired at least six short-range ballistic missiles from a west coast area in a drill overseen by Kim Jong Un, an event state media described as a simulated attack on the airfield. an unspecified South Korean airport.
The U.S.-South Korea exercises that began on Monday and are scheduled to continue until March 23 include computer simulations and live-fire field exercises.
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Last year Pyongyang tested more than 70 missiles, including nuclear-capable ones aimed at South Korea, Japan and the US mainland. North Korea says many of those tests are a warning over previous South Korea-US military exercises.
The South Korea-Japan summit was organized after the Yoon government last week took a major step toward repairing bilateral relations damaged by Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
His plan – to use local funds to compensate Koreans forced into factory labor during colonial rule without subsidies from the Japanese companies that employed them – has met domestic opposition but reflecting Yoon’s determination to improve relations with Japan and promote Seoul-Tokyo-Washington security cooperation.
Under Kishida, Tokyo has also made a big break from its post-World War II base of self-defense alone, adopting a new national security strategy in December that includes goals of acquiring advanced strike capabilities and naval weapons. to counter growing threats from North Korea, China and Russia.
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