North Korea fires long-range missile ahead of South Korea-Japan meeting
North Korea conducted a longest-ever missile test off its east coast on Wednesday, while leaders of South Korea and Japan were due to meet on the sidelines of a NATO summit to discuss threats including the nuclear-armed north.
The launch comes after fierce complaints from North Korea in recent days accusing American spy planes of violating airspace in its economic zones, condemning a recent visit to South Korea by an American nuclear-powered cruise missile submarine and promising to take countermeasures .
The missile flew to an altitude of 6,000 km and a range of 1,000 km in 74 minutes, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matusno said, making it the longest flight time of any North Korean missile ever.
In April, North Korea fired its first solid-fueled ICBM, one of about a dozen missile tests this year.
Analysts believe the North’s ICBMs can fly far enough to strike targets anywhere in the United States, and the country has likely developed nuclear warheads that fit on missiles.
The Japanese Coast Guard said it was probably a ballistic missile that had apparently landed in the morning.
The projectile had previously been predicted to impact outside of Japan’s EEZ and about 340 miles east of the Korean Peninsula.
Leif-Eric Easley, a professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, said North Korea’s recent belligerent statements against US reconnaissance planes are part of a pattern inflating external threats to garner domestic support and justify weapons tests.
“Pyongyang also plans its shows of power to disrupt what it perceives as diplomatic coordination against itself, in this case the meeting of South Korean and Japanese leaders during the NATO summit.”
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, who was in Lithuania to attend the NATO summit, called an emergency National Security Council meeting to discuss the launch and vowed to use the summit to call for strong international solidarity to deal with such threats .
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who is also in Lithuania, has ordered his staff to gather intelligence and remain vigilant to prepare for unforeseen events, according to the prime minister’s office.
Kishida and Yoon are expected to meet on Wednesday, and Matsuno said a summit with South Korea, Australia and New Zealand is also planned.
“We will respond in close cooperation with the international community,” Matsuno said at a news conference.
He said the launch endangered peace and stability both in the region and in the international community, and that Japan had lodged a protest through diplomatic channels in Beijing.
Shortly before the missile launch, the top United States general held a rare trilateral meeting with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts in Hawaii.
With a wary eye on North Korea’s military moves and other growing challenges in the region, Yoon has sought to restore strained ties with Japan and reduce historic disputes that have limited cooperation between the two US allies.
In addition to its missile tests, the North also failed in its attempt to launch its first-ever spy satellite using a new launch vehicle.
United Nations Security Council resolutions ban North Korea’s use of ballistic missile technology, including for satellite launches.
The Security Council and a number of other nations have imposed sanctions on North Korea over its missile and nuclear weapons programs.
(This story has been re-archived to fix a typo in paragraph 4)
reporting from the Tokyo and Seoul offices; writing by Elaine Lies; Adaptation by Tom Hogue and Lincoln Feast