North Korea launches another ICBM into Japanese waters, days after warning US

North Korea has allegedly fired off another intercontinental ballistic missile only days after warning the United States it would shoot down future spy aircraft.
Christopher McFadden
Is North Korea saber-rattling again?
Is North Korea saber-rattling again?


According to Japanese and South Korean spokespeople, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) fired what is suspected to be an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Wednesday. The missile, reports the BBC, was airborne for around an hour before plummeting into Japanese waters. This ICBM launch comes only days after Pyongyang warned that it would intercept and destroy any future United States spy aircraft incursions into its airspace.

Tensions rising again

The test also comes after a year or so of increased weapons testing by North Korea, with a record number conducted in 2022. Some of these weapons are alleged to have the range to reach the continental United States. Such testing also threatens the very brittle stalemate on the Korean peninsula.

The US and South Korea have responded to the situation by increasing their joint military drills around the peninsula. Despite this, Pyongyang has continued to carry out missile launches. In April, they tested a new ICBM they claimed was the most powerful yet. They attempted to launch a spy satellite in May, but unfortunately (for North Korea), it failed.

According to the Japanese Coast Guard, a missile launched from North Korea on Wednesday flew eastwards from Pyongyang for over an hour before landing in the sea west of Japan at around 11:15 am local time (02:15 am GMT). South Korea's military reported that the missile covered a distance of 621 miles (1,000km) during its high-angled flight. Following Wednesday's launch, South Korean and US officials held a meeting where they released a statement confirming their "strengthened" joint defense.

"We strongly condemn North Korea's launch of a long-range ballistic missile as a grave provocative act that harms the peace and stability of the Korean peninsula and the international community and is a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions," the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

The South Korean President, Yoon Suk-yeol, held an emergency meeting with his national security council while attending the Nato summit in Lithuania. This meeting was in response to North Korea's previous launch in mid-June, which involved firing two short-range ballistic missiles in reaction to US and South Korean drills. The last time North Korea tested an ICBM was back in February.

DPRK is saber-rattling

In November 2022, Pyongyang also tested a missile, firing it at a short-range and high-angle trajectory. However, the Japanese government warned that if the rocket were fired at a lower course, it could have reached the US mainland. On Monday, Kim Yo-jong, the influential sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, accused a US surveillance plane of violating North Korea's airspace. She also warned that there would be severe consequences if such flights persisted.

According to Professor Leif-Eric Easley, a North Korean expert at Ewha University in Seoul, the recent statements from Pyongyang are part of a familiar pattern. They exaggerate external threats to gain domestic support and justify their weapons tests. Easley also noted that North Korea often launches to interfere with diplomatic coordination against them, such as during the NATO summit, where leaders from South Korea and Japan were scheduled to meet.

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