North Korea confirms launch of new ICBM, Seoul issues stern warning

(Update 2: Adds broadcast on North Korean television)

Seoul, Mar 25 (EFE).- North Korea confirmed Friday that it launched its new Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), as South Korea’s incoming leader sent a stern warning to Pyongyang.

The new type of missile, “launched at the Pyongyang International Airport, flew 1,090 kilometers in 4,052 seconds, while going up to the highest altitude 6,248.5 kilometers before correctly hitting the target in the set waters over the East Sea (Sea of Japan),” reported KCNA.

Thursday’s test, which was attended by leader Kim Jong-un, according to KCNA, was the first ICBM test since 2017, breaking the moratorium that it self-imposed in 2018 when entering diplomacy with the United States.

The text of the North Korean state news agency assured that “the missile was test-fired vertically in consideration of the security of the neighboring states.”

The Hwasong-17 fell in Japanese waters just 150 kilometers west of the island of Hokkaido, making it the closest North Korean projectile to have fallen off Japanese shores.

Tokyo on Thursday denounced the launch and the fact that Pyongyang did not pre-notify the maritime and air traffic authorities.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s president-elect Yoon Suk-yeol had a message for Pyongyang on Friday.

“I sternly warn North Korea that there is nothing that can be gained from provocations,” Yoon wrote on his Facebook page.

On Thursday, his transition team condemned “such provocative acts that threaten peace in Northeast Asia, including the Korean Peninsula, and the world.”

Yoon also called for a meeting of the United Nations Security Council to approve new sanctions, a meeting that has been scheduled for Friday at the UN headquarters in New York.

North Korean state television showed footage of the launch. Anchor Ri Chung-hee, always in charge of broadcasting the most important news for the regime, said, wearing a traditional pink suit, that the North Korean Strategic Forces successfully launched the missile from Sunan International Airport in Pyongyang.

A montage with suspenseful music and slow-motion segments followed in which Kim and two of the key figures in the missile program can be seen: National Sciences and Defense Academy Director Jang Chang-ha, and Machinery Department Vice Director Kim Jong-sik, synchronizing their watches to remove the missile from the hangar.

The missile, believed to be the longest in the world (estimated to measure about 23 meters, longer than Russian, Chinese or American missiles with such range.)

The launch has come at a complex moment in South Korea, with a transition of power marked by disagreements on national security and with joint military exercises between Seoul and Washington, which infuriate Pyongyang, just around the corner.

The North Korean regime outlined at the 2021 sole party congress a five-year weapons modernization plan that is behind its current string of weapons tests – a record 12 since the beginning of the year.

In turn, since the failure of the negotiations with the US in 2019, it has rejected Washington’s invitations for dialogue at a time when the country is still closed due to the pandemic and without vaccines, making it unlikely to be holding high-level diplomatic meetings. EFE


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