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ABC News: North Korea continues banned missile tests

12-7-2023 |

North Korea fired its first intercontinental ballistic missile in three months on Wednesday, two days after it threatened “shocking” consequences to protest what it called provocative U.S. reconnaissance activity near its territory.

The missile fired from North Korea's capital region around 10 a.m. flew about 1,000 kilometers at a maximum altitude of 6,000 kilometers before landing in waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, according to South Korean and Japanese assessments. They said the missile was launched on a high angle, in an apparent attempt to avoid neighboring countries.

South Korea’s military called the launch “a grave provocation” and urged North Korea to refrain from additional launches. Chief Japanese Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno denounced North Korea's repeated missile launches as “threats to the peace and safety of Japan, the region and international society.”

In a trilateral phone call, the chief nuclear envoys of South Korea, Japan and the U.S. agreed to sternly deal with North Korean provocations and boost their coordination to promote a stronger international response to the North's nuclear and missile programs, according to Seoul's Foreign Ministry.

The launch came while South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida are attending the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania. In an emergency meeting of South Korea's security council convened by video in Lithuania, Yoon warned North Korea would face more powerful international sanctions due to its illicit weapons programs.

North Korea’s ICBM program targets the mainland U.S, while its shorter-range missiles are designed to hit South Korea and Japan, both key American allies in northeast Asia.

Since 2017, North Korea has performed a slew of ICBM tests, but some experts say the North still has some technologies to master to possess functioning nuclear-armed missiles capable of reaching major U.S. cities.

In a statement Monday night, Kim's sister and top adviser, Kim Yo Jong, warned the United States of “a shocking incident” as she claimed that the U.S. spy plane flew over the North’s eastern exclusive economic zone eight times earlier in the day. She claimed the North scrambled warplanes to chase away the U.S. plane.

The U.S. and South Korea dismissed the North’s accusations and urged it to refrain from any acts or rhetoric that raised animosities.

“I would just say that we continue to urge (North Korea) to refrain from escalatory actions,” Matthew Miller, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, said Tuesday. “As a matter of international law, the (North Korea’s) recent statements that U.S. flights above its claimed exclusive economic zone are unlawful are unfounded, as high seas freedoms of navigation and overflight apply in such areas.”

North Korea has made numerous similar accusations over U.S. reconnaissance activities, but its latest statements came amid heightened animosities over North Korea’s torrid run of weapons tests since the start of last year. Some observers say the North wants to use an expanded weapons arsenal to wrest greater concessions in eventual diplomacy with its rivals.

“Kim Yo Jong’s bellicose statement against U.S. surveillance aircraft is part of a North Korean pattern of inflating external threats to rally domestic support and justify weapons tests,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul. “Pyongyang also times its shows of force to disrupt what it perceives as diplomatic coordination against it, in this case, South Korea and Japan’s leaders meeting during the NATO summit.”

Some experts say North Korea could ramp up weapons tests around July 27, the date for the 70th anniversary of the signing of an armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

U.N. Security Council resolutions ban North Korea from engaging in any launches using ballistic technologies. But China and Russia, both permanent members of the council, blocked the U.S. and others' attempts to toughen U.N. sanctions on North Korea over its recent ballistic missile tests.

Source: ABC News