SEOUL, Nov 9 (Reuters) – North Korea fired at least one ballistic missile into the sea on Wednesday, as South Korea said it identified debris from an earlier launch as part of a surface-to-surface missile. air SA-5 of the Soviet era. .
The Japanese Coast Guard said the ballistic missile appeared to have fallen into the sea minutes after the launch was reported.
The missile flew up to 50 km in altitude and covered a range of 250 km, Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada told reporters.
He said the government lodged a strong protest with North Korea through diplomatic channels via Beijing, and that Tokyo strongly condemned the launch.
The Seoul Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) also said it had detected launch of an unspecified ballistic missile from North Korea.
The launch came after South Korea concluded an analysis of what it initially said was part of a North Korean short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) that landed near South Korean waters last week.
Analysis, however, showed that the piece, about 3 meters (3.3 yards) long and 2 meters wide, was part of an SA-5 anti-aircraft missile, the Ministry of Defense said, citing its appearance and characteristics.
The ministry strongly condemned the missile launch at the time, calling it a violation of a 2018 inter-Korean military pact banning any activity stoking border tensions.
“This SA-5 missile launch was a clearly deliberate and intentional provocation,” he said in a statement. “The SA-5 also has the characteristics of a surface-to-surface missile, and Russia has used similar missiles in Ukraine for surface-to-surface attacks.”
A South Korean navy vessel used an underwater probe to recover the missile, which arrived as the North several missiles tested last week, including a possible failure of the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), protesting against joint air exercises by South Korea and the United States.
It was the first time a North Korean ballistic missile had landed near South Korean waters.
North Korea’s military said the launches were mock strikes against South Korea and the United States, criticizing their drills as a “dangerous and aggressive war exercise.”
South Korean and US officials also said Pyongyang had made technical preparations to test a nuclear device, the first time since 2017.
The SA-5 is an air defense missile originally designed by the Soviet Union, where it was designated the S-200, to shoot down strategic bombers and other high altitude targets.
The missile has been exported around the world and is still in service with at least a dozen countries, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies Missile Defense Project.
North Korea took delivery of the SA-5 systems in the mid-1980s, according to “The Armed Forces of North Korea: On the Path of Songun,” a 2020 survey by Dutch researchers.
“Two sites equipped with these very long-range systems cover the entire airspace of North Korea as well as a significant part of that of the South,” the researchers wrote.
“However, having been designed to counter strategic aircraft, their use against modern fast jets such as the F-15 and F-16 is questionable to say the least.”
Reporting by Hyonhee Shinn and Josh Smith; Additional reporting by Kantaro Komiya and Daniel Leussink in Tokyo; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Gerry Doyle
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