North Korea yesterday test-fired a pair of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles with a range of striking Japan, in a possible protest of Tokyo’s adoption of a new security strategy to push for a more offensive footing against North Korea and China.
The launches also came two days after the North claimed to have performed a key test needed to build a more mobile, powerful intercontinental ballistic missile designed to strike the US mainland.
The two missiles traveled from the country’s northwest Tongchangri area about 500km at a maximum altitude of 550km before landing in waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, the South Korean and Japanese governments said.
South Korea’s military said both missiles were launched at a steep angle, suggesting the weapon could have traveled farther if fired at a standard trajectory.
North Korea usually tests medium and longer-range missiles at a high angle to avoid neighboring countries, although it fired an intermediate-range missile over Japan in October, forcing Tokyo to issue evacuation alerts and halt trains.
In an emergency meeting, top South Korean security officials decried North Korea’s continued provocations that they said came despite “the plight of its citizens moaning in hunger and cold due to a serious food shortage.”
They said South Korea would boost a trilateral security cooperation with the US and Japan, South Korea’s presidential office said.
Japanese Vice Minister of Defense Toshiro Ino separately criticized North Korea for threatening the safety of Japan, the region and the international community.
The US Indo-Pacific Command said the launches highlight the destabilizing impact of North Korea’s unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.
It said that US commitments to the defense of South Korea and Japan “remain ironclad.”
Kwon Yong-soo, a former professor at Korea National Defense University in South Korea, said North Korea likely tested its Pukguksong-2 missile, a solid-fueled, land-based variant of its Pukguksong family of missiles that can be fired from submarines.
Kwon said that flight details of the weapons tested yesterday were similar to those of the Pukguksong-2’s two known tests in 2017.
Kwon said the Pukguksong-2 can fly about 1,200km to 2,000km if it is launched at a normal trajectory, a range enough to strike key facilities in Japan, including US military installations.
“North Korea staged an armed protest with a land version of a submarine-launched ballistic missile that it can fire quickly in response” to the Japanese national security strategy, Kwon said.
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