North Korea fired a ballistic missile eastward on Wednesday, the Japanese government said, with the missile falling into the Sea of Japan off the North’s eastern coast.
The missile, fired at around 12:02 p.m. from near North Korea’s western coast, is believed to have traveled to an altitude of around 800 kilometers and covered a distance of around 500 km before falling into waters outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone, senior vice defense minister Makoto Oniki told reporters.
The South Korean military said the missile, which was launched from around the Sunan area of the capital Pyongyang, flew 470 km at speeds of Mach 11 after reaching 780 km in altitude, according to Yonhap News Agency.
The news agency said the military is analyzing the launch, including the possibility it was an intermediate-range ballistic missile or a longer-range intercontinental ballistic missile.
The latest launch “absolutely cannot be condoned as it threatens the peace and safety of the international community,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters in Italy, where he is currently visiting.
Japan lodged a protest with North Korea via its embassy in the Chinese capital Beijing, and the premier instructed relevant government agencies to confirm the safety of ships and aircraft as well as provide information to the public in a timely manner, according to the government.
Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, who is in the United States for talks with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, condemned the North Korean launch as one made while the world is dealing with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He instructed Oniki to make the utmost effort at dealing with the situation.
Pyongyang conducted two projectile launches toward the Sea of Japan on April 16, and the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported they were test-firings of a “new-type tactical guided weapon.”
North Korea fired a new type of ICBM in late March, its biggest launch in terms of flight duration and altitude, at a time when international attention was focused on Ukraine.
The latest launch comes just days before South Korean President-elect Yoon Suk Yeol, a conservative, is set to take office on Tuesday.
The government of outgoing President Moon Jae In convened an emergency meeting of its National Security Council after the launch, with his office saying Seoul is ready to respond to “any threat” on the basis of its “ironclad” alliance with the United States.
North Korea has been accelerating efforts to develop missiles under leader Kim Jong Un. At a congress of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea in January 2021, the country unveiled the policy of acquiring a variety of means to launch nuclear attacks.
It proceeded to test-fire a new type of long-range cruise missile, what was claimed to be a hypersonic missile and a submarine-launched ballistic missile, between September and October.
Since January the country has also tested a barrage of missiles, including short-range ballistic missiles and an intermediate-range ballistic missile.
On March 24, North Korea test-fired an ICBM that the Japanese government assessed to be a new type, marking an end to its self-imposed moratorium on ICBM firings. KCNA said the missile was the Hwasong-17, which is believed to be capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to anywhere in the continental United States.
Meanwhile, a missile tested by the North on March 16 that could have been a new type of ICBM is assessed to have exploded in midair immediately after launch.
North Korea held a military parade in Pyongyang on April 25 where Hwasong-17 and numerous other weapons were displayed.