BEIJING (Kyodo) — North Korea has confirmed it fired a new “Hwasong-17” intercontinental ballistic missile under the direction of leader Kim Jong Un, state media reported Friday, jeopardizing regional security and reminding in the United States the threat to the nation may pose.
Thursday’s launch came at a time when the United States and its security allies were busy with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and North Korea’s economy was facing a severe downturn amid of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following the latest launch of the ICBM, described by military analysts as a “monster missile”, the administration of US President Joe Biden has decided to impose additional sanctions on North Korea in order to curb its development of ballistic missiles.
The ICBM, fired from Pyongyang International Airport, reportedly traveled to a maximum altitude of 6,248.5 kilometers and a distance of 1,090 km during its 68-minute flight before hitting a target in the sea of Japan, according to the official Korean Central Bureau. Press Agency.
Kim was quoted by KCNA as saying North Korea was “fully ready for a long-running showdown with the US imperialists”, amid bilateral talks between Washington and Pyongyang on denuclearization and sanctions relief have been stalled for more than two years.
The leader said the Hwangsong-17, which could deliver a nuclear warhead anywhere in the continental United States, was “complemented as the main strike asset and reliable nuclear war deterrent” of the North Korea, the news agency reported.
Kim “gave a written order” to test the new type of ICBM on Wednesday and visited the launch site on Thursday, KCNA said.
The Rodong Sinmun, mouthpiece of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, released photos on Friday of a missile believed to be the Hwasong-17 that resembles the one displayed at a military parade held in October 2020.
Later on Friday, state-run Korean Central Television also aired video footage of Kim, wearing a black leather jacket with dark glasses, and his aides watching the missile detonate.
The ICBM, carried by a 22-wheel launcher, was in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone in the Sea of Japan, about 150 km west of the Oshima Peninsula on the northernmost main island. of the country, Hokkaido.
A Japanese government official said it may be the closest North Korean missile to the Japanese archipelago. The Defense Ministry said the missile was launched on a trajectory that limited its travel distance.
The United States and North Korea remain technically in a state of war as the Korean War of 1950-1953 – in which United Nations forces led by the United States fought alongside North Korea South against the North supported by China and the Soviet Union – ended in a ceasefire, not a peace treaty.
Many foreign affairs experts have said North Korea is likely to continue testing weapons in accordance with its plan presented at the Workers’ Party of Korea congress in January 2021.
At the key party meeting, Kim pledged to develop ICBMs that use solid fuel to shorten pre-launch preparations while pledging to secure reconnaissance capabilities with satellite systems.
Long-range ballistic missiles capable of carrying warheads and rockets capable of delivering satellites use similar technology. North Korea is banned from launching ballistic missiles under Security Council resolutions imposing sanctions on the nation.
Pyongyang officially declared in April 2018, two months before the first-ever US-North Korea summit, that it would end nuclear testing and the firing of intercontinental ballistic rockets.
Recently, however, North Korea said it could restart all “activities” it had temporarily suspended to build trust with former US President Donald Trump, Biden’s predecessor, while asking Washington to abandon its “hostile policy”.
At their June 2018 meeting in Singapore, Trump agreed with Kim that the United States would provide security guarantees to North Korea in exchange for “complete” denuclearization.
But subsequently they failed to bridge the gap between Washington’s demands and Pyongyang’s calls for sanctions relief.
North Korea, which says no COVID-19 infections have been found in the country, has kept its borders largely closed since early 2020 to prevent entry of the coronavirus, first detected in the central city. from Wuhan in China at the end of 2019.
As travel restrictions weighed on North Korea’s trade with China and dealt a blow to the country’s wider economy, Kim tried to urge the United States to ease sanctions designed to thwart Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile ambitions, experts say.
Nonetheless, hours after KCNA’s report on the ICBM launch on Thursday, the US State Department said it had imposed new sanctions on five entities and individuals in Russia and North Korea for transferring important elements of Pyongyang’s missile program.