N. Korea fires intermediate-range ballistic missile

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno speaks at a press conference at Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo on Sunday.

SEOUL/TOKYO (Jiji Press) — North Korea fired an intermediate-range ballistic missile eastward toward the Sea of Japan from Mupyong-ri in the inland province of Jagang around 7:50 a.m. Sunday (10:50 p.m. Saturday GMT), according to the Japanese government and the South Korean military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The missile, launched on a lofted trajectory, traveled about 800 kilometers while reaching an altitude of some 2,000 kilometers. It is estimated to have fallen into waters outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone after flying for about 30 minutes.

This was the first intermediate-range ballistic missile launch by North Korea since 2017.

The Japanese government held a meeting of its National Security Council at the prime minister’s office Sunday, with participants, including Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi and Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, collecting and analyzing information about the North Korean launch.

“We strongly denounce the latest missile firing because it violated relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions,” Kishida told reporters. “We have lodged a strong protest” against the launch, he added.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said that no damage has been confirmed from the launch at the moment.

It was the seventh time this year that North Korea has test-fired ballistic or other missiles. On Thursday, the country launched tactical guided missiles.

On Jan. 5 and 11, North Korea fired what it claimed hypersonic missiles from a location in or around Jagang Province.

Through the series of launches, North Korea is apparently aiming to improve the performances of its missiles, including accuracy in hitting targets.

Recent actions by North Korea are “posing a threat to the peace and safety of our country, as well as of the region and the international community,” Matsuno said.

At a meeting of the Workers’ Party of Korea on Jan. 19, North Korea indicated plans to resume nuclear testing and test-firing of intercontinental ballistic missiles. The country in April 2018 announced a freeze on nuclear and ICBM tests.

The intermediate-range ballistic missile fired on Sunday could have been a Hwasong-12, informed sources said. North Korea repeatedly test-fired the Hwasong-12 in 2017.

As the Hwasong-12 could possibly be capable of reaching Guam, tensions between the United States and North Korea may increase further, analysts said.

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in convened an emergency meeting of the country’s National Security Council, and participating cabinet ministers discussed how to deal with the latest missile launch by the North.

Moon condemned the latest launch for violating U.N. Security Council resolutions. North Korea is now on the verge of ending the nuclear and ICBM test moratorium, Moon said.