N. Korea launches suspected ICBM after warning it could shoot down US aircraft

Posted on : 2023-07-12 18:09 KST Modified on : 2023-07-12 18:09 KST
It has been 27 days since North Korea launched a missile of any kind
North Korea fires a Hwasong-17 “new-type” ICBM on Nov. 18, 2022. (KCNA/Yonhap)
North Korea fires a Hwasong-17 “new-type” ICBM on Nov. 18, 2022. (KCNA/Yonhap)

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff announced Wednesday that North Korea had fired a long-range ballistic missile toward the waters off its eastern coast that morning.

Stating it had detected what was presumed to be a long-range ballistic missile fired toward the East Sea from the Pyongyang area around 10 am, the Joint Chiefs said that the missile had been launched at a high angle and flown for approximately 1,000 kilometers before making impact in the East Sea.

Details are currently undergoing comprehensive rigorous analysis by the South Korean and US intelligence agencies, the Joint Chiefs added.

Based on flight distance, ballistic missiles are broken down into four categories: short-range missiles fly between 300 and 1,000 kilometers; medium-range ballistic missiles are airborne for between 1,000 and 3,000 kilometers; intermediate-range ballistic missiles fly between 3,000 and 5,000 kilometers, and intercontinental ballistic missiles fly 5,500 or more kilometers.

While the Joint Chiefs did not disclose the flight time or maximum altitude of the missile launched Wednesday, the Japanese government reported that it was an ICBM that had crashed at around 11:13 am and reached a max altitude of 6,000 kilometers.

For high-angle launches in which a missile is intentionally fired at a nearly perpendicular angle to cut down on aviation range, max altitudes are estimated to be around double to triple a flight at a regular angle.

This means that if Japan’s data is correct, had North Korea launched the ICBM at a normal angle (30 to 45 degrees), it’s estimated it could have flown at least 15,000 kilometers — meaning it could have reached anywhere in the continental United States.

If it indeed was an ICBM that North Korea launched, this would be its first launch of this type of missile in 90 days. The last was its launch of the solid-fuel Hwasong-18 ICBM on April 13.

It’s been 27 days since North Korea launched a missile of any sort, the most recent being a short-range ballistic missile fired on June 15.

After Kim Yo-jong delivered successive warnings on Monday and Tuesday that North Korea could shoot down US reconnaissance aircraft after such craft flew above the waters off its eastern coast, the launch of an ICBM is being read as a show of force directed at America.

Immediately following North Korea’s missile launch, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs announced information on the situation was being closely shared between the US and South Korea, and that it confirmed that the two sides would further reinforce the joint defense posture in the face of any North Korean provocation.

“As a grave provocation that harms the peace and stability of not only the Korean Peninsula, but the international community, we strongly condemn this launch of a long-range ballistic missile by North Korea as a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions and call for an immediate cessation,” the Joint Chiefs said.

By Kwon Hyuk-chul, staff reporter

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