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North Korea fires new ICBM in largest test since 2017

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SEOUL: North Korea fired a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Thursday, Tokyo and Seoul said as they voiced outrage at Pyongyang’s most powerful launch since 2017.

The missile was fired on Thursday afternoon from Sunan — likely the same site as a failed test last week — and had a range of 6,200 kilometers (3,850 miles), Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

The missile flew for 71 minutes and landed in Japan’s territorial waters, according to the Japanese government.

Nuclear-armed North Korea has long coveted an ICBM that can carry multiple warheads and, the US and South Korea say, has been testing the Hwasong-17, a giant ICBM first unveiled in October 2020.

Despite biting international sanctions over its weapons programs, Pyongyang has doubled-down on Kim’s drive to modernise the military, and last week test-fired what analysts said was likely the Hwasong-17.

That launch ended in failure, exploding mid-air in the skies above the capital.

“Pyongyang attempted to fire an ICBM at the Sunan airport last week but failed,” said Go Myong-hyun, senior researcher at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

“So it carried out today’s launch to make up for that failure and because it has to complete the ICBM technology right away,” he told AFP.

The moratorium was “virtually scrapped” anyway, Go said, when North Korea conducted two tests for what it called a “reconnaissance satellite”.

“What is also key is whether Pyongyang will make today’s launch official,” he added.

It is worth noting that North Korea will mark the 110th anniversary of the birth of founder Kim Il Sung on April 15, and analysts predict Pyongyang will conduct an ICBM or satellite launch as part of the celebrations.

“Kim Jong Un feels it’s very important to prove his leadership’s competency before the 110th birthday anniversary of Kim Il Sung, especially to his own people in North Korea,” said Cheong Seong-chang of the Center for North Korea Studies at the Sejong Institute.

The reaction to the launch was swift: South Korea’s military said it had fired a barrage of missiles in response to North Korea’s test of a new ICBM, while Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Pyongyang was threatening “the peace and safety of Japan, the region and the international community,” adding, “this cannot be accepted”.

Washington also strongly condemned the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for its test of a long-range ballistic missile, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

Published in Dawn, March 25th, 2022

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