North conducts 4th missile test this yearNorth Korea fired a ballistic missile off its eastern coast Wednesday morning, the fourth missile test this year and only two days before its closest ally China holds its first summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.
Launched from the eastern port city of Sinpo in South Hamgyong Province at around 6:42 a.m., the projectile peaked at an attitude of 189 kilometers (117 miles) and flew 60 kilometers for nine minutes before coming down in the East Sea, said South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). It appeared to have been launched at a high angle so as not to hit Japan.
The missile was suspected to be a Pukguksong-2 (KN-15) model, said the JCS, similar to the one North test-fired on Feb. 12, which reached an altitude of 550 kilometers and flew 500 kilometers before crashing into the East Sea. The Pukguksong-2 is a land variant of the Pukguksong (KN-11), a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).
Authorities in Seoul and Washington were analyzing the test for further clues, said the JCS. The U.S. Pacific Command said in a statement that the missile had not posed a threat to the United States.
The Blue House convened a National Security Council meeting at 8:30 a.m. and said it would “maintain military readiness.”
Cho June-hyuck, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the South Korean government “strongly condemned” the missile test and warned that its “reckless provocations” will only induce more sanctions, leading to the regime’s “self-destruction.”
The U.S. Pacific Command said, “[we are] fully committed to working closely with our Republic of Korea and Japanese allies to maintain security.”
In a terse press statement issued by the U.S. State Department, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said only: “North Korea launched yet another intermediate-range ballistic missile. The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment.”
Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, was quoted by the Japan Times as saying Tokyo “won’t tolerate” repeated provocations by North Korea and that it filed a “grave protest” against the regime and “strongly denounced” the test-firing.
Neither Beijing nor Pyongyang have released a statement on the matter.
The North carried out four ballistic missile tests this year, the most recent on March 22, which ended in failure. Pyongyang pushed through its first ballistic missile test on Feb. 12 with an intermediate-range projectile.
On March 6, in the second test, the North test-fired four Scud-ER missiles off its eastern coast, three of which fell into waters within Japan’s exclusive economic zone. They all reached an altitude of about 260 kilometers and flew 1,000 kilometers.
The possibility of a sixth nuclear test by North Korea has been looming for weeks. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said in a New Year’s speech on Jan. 1 that the country was in the “final stage” of preparing to test-fire an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the first of its kind.
BY LEE SUNG-EUN [firstname.lastname@example.org]