As South Korean and Japanese leaders meet at NATO, North Korea launches an ICBM

On Wednesday, North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) off its east coast, drawing condemnation from South Korean and Japanese leaders who were meeting outside of a NATO summit.

Advertisements

The launch comes after North Korea made strident allegations in recent days, accusing American spy planes of violating airspace in its economic zones, denouncing an American nuclear-powered cruise missile submarine’s recent visit to South Korea, and pledging to take measures in response.

According to Japan’s top cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, the ICBM flew for 74 minutes to a height of 6,000 km (3,728 miles) and a range of 1,000 kilometers, which would be the longest flight time ever for a North Korean missile.

The missile was expected to land roughly 550 kilometers (340 miles) east of the Korean peninsula, according to the Japan Coast Guard.

One of over a dozen missile tests this year, North Korea tested its first-ever solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile in April. Analysts predict that the North has produced nuclear weapons that can be mounted on rockets and that its ICBMs can travel far enough to reach targets anywhere in the United States.

Kim Dong-yup, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, speculated that it might be a follow-up test of the solid-fuel Hwasong-18 ICBM.

The current test, according to Yang Uk, a fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, could be a part of the North’s attempts to regain control of the situation after the failure of its first-ever spy satellite launch in May.

Yang said Pyongyang’s claims this week that Washington and Seoul had violated American airspace were unfounded were probably used to justify the launch.

NATO DIPLOMATISM

While attending the NATO summit in Lithuania, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol called a meeting of the national security council to review the launch and promised to utilize the occasion to urge strong global cooperation in addressing such threats.

Yoon and Fumio Kishida, the prime minister of Japan, spoke separately and strongly denounced the launch as a major contravention of numerous U.N. resolutions as well as a serious provocation that heightens tension.

As an ICBM, the missile, according to Kishida, jeopardized regional peace and stability and called for increased collaboration between the two neighbors and the United States.

At a previous meeting with representatives from Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, Yoon stated: “We cannot condone these provocations, and we must respond to North Korea’s reckless actions through strong responses and the solidarity of the international community.”

Professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, Leif-Eric Easley, claimed that North Korea had a habit of staging weapons tests ahead of important diplomatic occasions like the Yoon-Kishida summit.

Yoon has taken steps to mend strained relations with Japan and lessen historical differences that have hindered collaboration between the two U.S. allies, keeping a careful eye on North Korea’s military actions and other emerging threats in the region.

South Korean, American, and Japanese nuclear envoys spoke on the phone on Wednesday to forcefully denounce the North’s missile launch as a major provocation that “can never be justified,” according to Seoul’s foreign ministry. They criticized Pyongyang for its recent threats against what they called the allies’ routine flying operations in international waters.

Just before the missile launch, the top military officials from the three nations met in Hawaii for a very uncommon trilateral gathering.