Latest ICBM tested by N. Korea brings entire US mainland within reach

Posted on : 2022-03-25 15:56 KST Modified on : 2022-03-25 16:51 KST
Seoul condemns Pyongyang for scrapping moratorium and fires its own missiles amid fears that 2018-era tensions could return to the Korean Peninsula
North Korea unveils a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in a military parade marking the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the Workers’ Party of Korea on Oct. 10, 2020, in Pyongyang. (Yonhap News)
North Korea unveils a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in a military parade marking the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the Workers’ Party of Korea on Oct. 10, 2020, in Pyongyang. (Yonhap News)

The long-range ballistic missile test-launched over the East Sea by North Korea on Thursday was an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) announced.

Personally presiding over an emergency meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) the same day, South Korean President Moon Jae-in sternly denounced the test launch, accusing North Korea of scrapping the moratorium on ICBM launches that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had pledged to the international community.

As a retaliatory measure for the North Korean missile launch, South Korean military authorities test-launched their own missiles from the sea, air and land. This signals a return to the extreme military tensions that simmered on the Korean Peninsula prior to 2018.

The JCS announced that it had “detected an intercontinental ballistic missile launched toward the East Sea from the area of Sunan in Pyongyang at approximately 1434 hours today.”

“The flight distance was approximately 1,080km, while the altitude was detected at over 6,200 km,” the JCS continued, adding that the flight time was approximately 70 minutes, with South Korean and US intelligence authorities conducting a close analysis to determine the exact type of missile. The speed was reportedly estimated at Mach 20.

Military authorities are reportedly considering the possibility that the projectile test-launched Thursday may be a different model from North Korea’s new ICBM model, the Hwasong-17, which it has test-launched three times recently.

The JCS explained that while the missile had flown for around 1,080km, it had been launched at a high angle. A high-angle launch refers to deliberately launching a missile at an angle of close to 90 degrees, instead of the typical 30–45 degrees, in order to reduce the distance traveled.

If the missile had been fired at a normal angle, it would have reportedly been able to travel for 10,000–15,000km, or far enough to hit the American capital of Washington, DC. The Japanese government explained that the missile had fallen into the East Sea, about 150km to the west of the Oshima Peninsula on the northernmost island of Hokkaido.

The last time that North Korea launched an ICBM was in November 2017, four years and four months ago. This launch ends the moratorium on nuclear weapon tests and ICBM test launches that the North had announced in April 2018 prior to its summit with the US.

The Blue House quoted Moon as strongly condemning North Korea’s ICBM launch during an emergency meeting of the National Security Council on Thursday, where he described the launch as “an evident violation of UN Security Council resolutions that poses a serious threat to the Korean Peninsula, the region, and the international community.”

“With this launch, North Korea has nullified the moratorium on ICBM launches that Kim Jong-un pledged to the international community,” Moon was quoted as saying.

South Korea and the US had issued an unusual “early warning” by releasing their assessments of North Korea’s two performance tests of its new ICBM. But following North Korea’s brazen test on Thursday, the international community is likely to impose additional sanctions on Pyongyang.

South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Thursday afternoon that Noh Kyu-duk, its special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, had discussed the test over the phone with Sung Kim, the US special representative for North Korea. The Ministry also said that South Korea, the US, and Japan had agreed to pursue a united response that could include action at the UN Security Council.

The JCS said that South Korea’s army, navy, and air force had launched five Hyunmoo-2 surface-to-surface missiles in the East Sea to demonstrate their response and retaliation capabilities following the North’s ICBM launch on Thursday afternoon.

The presidential transition committee, under president-elect Yoon Suk-yeol, said in a position statement that it “strongly condemns” the ICBM launch, which it described as a “provocative action threatening world peace.”

By Kwon Hyuk-chul, staff reporter

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