Seoul, South Korea – North Korea fired three more missiles on Thursday, including an intercontinental ballistic missile, the South Korean and Japanese governments said, continuing to escalate tensions a day later. launched a record of at least 23 missiles in a 24 hour period.
Fears that one of the missiles could fly over Japan prompted the government to activate its early warning system, urging residents of northern Miyagi, Yamagata and Niigata prefectures to take shelter indoors or underground. Officials later said the missile did not fly over Japan and disappeared over water.
North Korea has stepped up its weapons tests and fiery rhetoric as the United States and South Korea continue large-scale joint military exercises this week. The tests are seen as an effort by the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un expand his regime’s nuclear arsenal, pressure the United States to ease crippling sanctions, and be recognized by the international community as a nuclear state.
The long-range ballistic missile was fired out to sea at 7:40 a.m. (6:40 p.m. Wednesday ET) from the Sunan area of North Korea’s capital Pyongyang, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said. . An hour later, North Korea fired two suspected short-range ballistic missiles seaward from the Gaechon area in the southern province of Pyongan.
Adrienne Watson, spokesperson for the United States National Security Council, issued a statement saying that Washington strongly condemns North Korea’s ICBM test and that President Joe Biden and his national security team are assessing the situation closely. coordination with allies and partners.
“This launch, in addition to the launch of several other ballistic missiles this week, is in flagrant violation of several UN Security Council resolutions and unnecessarily increases tensions and risks destabilizing the security situation in the region,” he said. she declared.
Watson said the United States would take all necessary steps to keep America and its allies safe.
South Korea’s military said it has strengthened surveillance and control in close cooperation with the United States and is maintaining military preparedness for all situations.
Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said one of the missiles reached an altitude of 1,242 miles and traveled 466 miles, landing in waters west of Japan. It may have been a medium- or long-range missile, he said.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff provided similar figures, saying the missile reached an altitude of 1,193 miles and traveled 472 miles at around Mach 5.
North Korea last tested an intercontinental ballistic missile in March, its first such test since 2017. US and South Korean officials say the country is also preparing for its seventh nuclear test, which would also be the first since 2017.
Early last month, North Korea sent an intermediate-range ballistic missile flying over japan in his longest weapons test ever. The nuclear-capable missile has the range to reach the US territory of Guam in the Pacific.
Tensions were already rising on Wednesday when South Korea responded to North Korea’s barrage by firing its own air-to-surface missiles. Both countries’ missiles landed in international waters across their disputed maritime border, but not in their actual territories.
South Korea is in a period of national mourning after the The favorite of the Halloween crowd in Seoul which killed 156 people. President Yoon Suk-yeolThe government has been criticized for the failure of the police to prevent the tragedy.
In addition to improving its military capabilities, missile testing also serves North Korea’s political goals, said Leif-Eric Easley, associate professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.
“From Pyongyang’s perspective, the unpopularity of the Yoon administration appears as an opportunity to coerce the South Korean public into opposing security cooperation with Washington,” he said by email. -mail. “Meanwhile, firing at Japan may be interpreted as a threat not to be involved in the security of the Korean Peninsula.”