South Korea: North Korea fires suspected ICBM

North Korea fired three ballistic missiles eastward on Wednesday, just a day after the end of US President Joe Biden's visit to Asia.

North Korea fired three ballistic missiles eastward on Wednesday, just a day after the end of US President Joe Biden’s visit to Asia.

The first was a suspected intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that flew some 360 kilometres at an altitude of 540 kilometres, the South Korean military’s general staff (JCS) said.

Missiles with the capability to travel more than 5,500 kilometres are counted as ICBMs. It was not initially clear if North Korea had purposely limited the flight distance to several hundred kilometres.

The other two missiles were deemed short-range ballistic missiles.

Pyongyang launched the three missiles in the direction of the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea, from around the Sunan area in Pyongyang at around 6 am (2100 GMT Tuesday), 6:37 am and 6:42 am.

Japan’s Defence Ministry also confirmed the launch of three missiles by North Korea, saying at least two were ballistic missiles and the third was being analyzed, Kyodo reported.

UN resolutions prohibit North Korea from testing ballistic missiles, which can carry a nuclear warhead.

The country had tested missiles several times since the beginning of this year, including an intercontinental ballistic missile.

The JCS said it was reinforcing monitoring and vigilance activities and maintaining a “full readiness posture” in close cooperation with the United States, Yonhap news agency reported.

The US Indo-Pacific Command said it was aware of the multiple launches and was “assessing and consulting closely with our allies and partners.”

“While this event does not pose an immediate threat to U.S. personnel or territory, or to our allies, the missile launches highlights the destabilizing impact of the DPRK’s illicit weapons program,” the statement said, using the acronym for North Korea’s official name, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The White House had previously said that there was a “genuine possibility” that Pyongyang would carry out a missile test around the time of Biden’s visit to South Korea and Japan.

Washington had also warned that North Korea could test a nuclear weapon as early as in the month of May, which would mark the first such test in almost five years.

“We share [South Korea’s] concern that North Korea may be on the verge of another provocation,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price said in Washington when asked about South Korean officials saying that Pyongyang has finished preparations for a nuclear test.

“We have said for the past couple weeks – we have spoken of our expectation that the DPRK may undertake an additional provocation either during the course of the President’s visit to the region, which has now essentially concluded, or in the days that followed,” Price said.

“Our concern for another potential provocation, be it an ICBM launch, be it a potential seventh nuclear weapons test, our concern has not abated in any way.”

On Tuesday, Biden concluded trip his first trip to Asia since taking office.

North Korea last tested a nuclear weapon for the sixth time in September 2017. Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump was unsuccessful in attempts to negotiate with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over nuclear disarmament.

North Korea has repeatedly conducted missile tests since the start of this year, including one involving an intercontinental missile. Wednesday’s launch was the 17th test so far this year.

UN resolutions prohibit the launch by Pyongyang of ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads as part of strict sanctions imposed in response to the country’s nuclear weapons programme.

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