South Korea North Korea on Thursday conducted its first intercontinental ballistic missile launch in a month, possibly testing a new more mobile, harder-to-detect missile for the first time, its neighbors said, as it extends its provocative run of weapons tests.
Japan briefly urged residents on a northern island to take shelter in an indication of its vigilance over North Korea’s evolving missile threats.
The missile was launched on a high angle from near the North Korean capital of Pyongyang and fell in the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan following a 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) flight, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staffs said in a statement.
It described its range as medium or longer. The U.S. National Security Council called it a long-range missile and Japan’s government said it likely had an intercontinental range.
South Korea’s military believes North Korea launched a new type of ballistic missile, possibly using solid fuel, a defense official said under the condition of anonymity because of office rules.
But after Thursday’s launch, the Japanese government urged people on the northernmost island of Hokkaido to seek shelter. The government then corrected and retracted its missile alert, saying its analysis showed there was no possibility of a missile landing near Hokkaido.
It was unclear why Japan issued the order for a missile that didn’t fall near the island, but the incident suggested it was being cautious about North Korea’s evolving missile threats.
Last October, Japanese authorities issued a similar evacuation order when a North Korean intermediate-range missile flew over Japan in a launch that demonstrated the potential to reach the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam. At the time, Japanese authorities alerted residents in its northeastern regions to seek shelter and halted trains, although no damages were reported before the weapon landed in the Pacific.
Thursday’s launch came days after its leader Kim Jong Un vowed to enhance his nuclear arsenal in more “practical and offensive” ways.
This is not the first time there have been issues with the J-Alerts. Last October, Japan apologized for the malfunctioning of the early warning system when residents in nine of Tokyo’s island towns and villages were mistakenly sent alerts. On that occasion, North Korea had fired a ballistic missile, but it did not pass over the communities who received the alerts.
The latest alarm came after North Korea fired what appeared to be a mid or longer range ballistic missile from an area near Pyongyang, at around 7:23 a.m. local time Thursday, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The South Korean military believes Pyongyang was testing a new ballistic missile, which it had showcased in a military parade, according to a military official. That missile could be solid-fueled, a type of missile that can be launched more quickly and moved around more easily than the liquid-fueled long-range missiles North Korea has tested in the past.
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