HONG KONG-- North Korea released an intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time since 2017, authorities in Japan stated Thursday, in a major escalation of stress over its weapons program.
Japan's top government representative, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, stated the missile appeared to be a brand-new kind of ICBM, since it flew much farther than the last ICBM North Korea tested in November 2017.
Matsuno stated he had informed Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who is en route to Brussels for a NATO summit focused on the crisis in Ukraine.
" It is absolutely undesirable that while the world is responding to Russia's aggression against Ukraine, North Korea would unilaterally intensify its provocations against the international community by conducting this launch," Matsuno said.
The launch ended a self-imposed moratorium on screening ICBMs and nuclear weapons that North Korea stated in 2018 ahead of diplomatic talks with the United States that eventually collapsed. The country is barred from screening nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles under United Nations Security Council resolutions.
Matsuno stated the missile was introduced east from North Korea's western coast. He said it landed at 3:44 p.m. (2:44 a.m. ET) about 150 km (90 miles) west of Oshima Peninsula on northern Hokkaido Island, within Japan's unique economic zone.
Matsuno said the missile was estimated to have been in the air for 71 minutes, flew a range of 1,100 km (680 miles) and reached an optimum altitude of more than 6,000 km (3,725 miles).So far there have been no reports of damage to vessels or airplanes in the region.
The South Korean military likewise stated North Korea had released an "unidentified projectile" suspected to be a long-range ballistic missile. South Korean President Moon Jae-in called a National Security Council meeting in response to the launch.
Earlier this month, the Biden administration had cautioned that North Korea was covertly screening components of a new ICBM system ahead of a possible full-range launch. It enforced brand-new sanctions over two missile tests on Feb. 27 and March 5 that it said included the Hwasong-17, North Korea's biggest ICBM system. The Hwasong-17 initially appeared at a military parade in October 2020, however had never been checked before.
North Korea has actually ramped up its missile testing in current months, specifically since the start of the year. They consisted of an intermediate-range ballistic missile efficient in reaching the U.S. territory of Guam, in addition to a hypersonic missile and a ballistic missile fired from a submarine. The country hinted in January that tests of nuclear weapons or long-range ballistic missiles might be next.
Experts state such tests are an effort to extract concessions from the United States as North Korea's economy, already struggling under government mismanagement and U.S.-led sanctions, is more harmed by the pandemic.