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North Korea Tests ICBM For First Time Since 2017

South Korean president Moon Jae-in says the test is a “grave threat to the international community”

North Korea Tests ICBM For First Time Since 2017North Korea Tests ICBM For First Time Since 2017

People watch a TV showing a file image of North Korea's missile launch during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, March 24, 2022.

Ahn Young-joonAP

North Korea allegedly launched an intercontinental ballistic missile Thursday, according to South Korean and Japanese officials, marking the first time the country has performed such a test since 2017. News of the test comes just weeks after U.S. and South Korean defense officials warned the North’s recent missile testing activity suggested the country was gearing up for an eventual full-scale ICBM launch.

“This launch is a brazen violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions and needlessly raises tensions and risks destabilizing the security situation in the region,” read a statement from White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “The door has not closed on diplomacy, but Pyongyang must immediately cease its destabilizing actions.”

According to Japanese Defense Minister Makoto Oniki, the missile was launched around 2:33 p.m. local time, flying 683 miles and reaching an altitude of 3,728 miles before landing in the Sea of Japan less than 100 miles off the coast of Japan’s Aomori prefecture. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff called the missile, which was launched from the country’s Sunan region outside of Pyongyang, a “ICBM-level” projectile and suggested it was potentially stronger than the Hwasong-15 ICBM launched in November 2017, the New York Times reported.

In response to Thursday’s test, South Korea conducted a joint live-fire exercise utilizing two of its own missiles to demonstrate its retaliatory capabilities, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency. “This launch means Chairman Kim Jong-un has himself broken the moratorium on ICBMs he promised the international community, causing grave threat to the international community and clearly violating U.N. Security Council resolutions,” said South Korean president Moon Jae-in, who called called an emergency National Security Council meeting in response to the launch.

Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida, who is in Brussels to attend the Group of Seven summit, also condemned the missile launch. “These series of actions by North Korea threaten the peace and security of our country, the region at large and the international community,” he said, according to statements published by Japanese broadcaster NHK and translated by Rolling Stone, adding that the acts “cannot be tolerated.”

The launch follows a series of smaller-scale tests by North Korea since the beginning of this year — including a March 16 test in which a missile exploded less than a minute after liftoff,  the Associated Press reported. Earlier this month, U.S. and South Korean officials suggested the North was preparing to test its Hwasong-17 missile, which was famously pulled through the streets of Pyongyang during a parade marking the 75th anniversary of the Korean Workers Party in October 2020. “The purpose of these tests, which did not demonstrate ICBM range, was likely to evaluate this new system before conducting a test at full range in the future, potentially disguised as a space launch,” read a statement from Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby.

“While we have assessed that this event does not pose an immediate threat to U.S. personnel, territory, or that of our allies, we will continue to monitor the situation closely,” read a statement from U.S. Indo-Pacific Command released shortly after Thursday’s launch. “The United States remains prepared to defend the U.S. homeland and our allies.”

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has conducted over 70 ballistic missile tests since coming to power in 2011, according to the Associated Press, citing American hostility as the reason behind the country’s increasingly vast weapons arsenal.

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