North's latest missile launch seems to have been big
North Korea launched a ballistic missile into the East Sea around noon Wednesday.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) of South Korea announced Wednesday that it detected one ballistic missile launched into the East Sea from Sunan near Pyongyang, at 12:03 p.m. The ballistic missile flew 470 kilometers (292 miles) and reached an apogee of 780 kilometers (484 miles) with a top speed of Mach 11.
Considering the particularly high apogee, some experts said the missile could have been a Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) or a completely new missile.
“Currently, our military is maintaining readiness by tracking and monitoring related trends in preparation for additional launches,” the JCS said.
On March 24, North Korea fired the world’s largest ICBM from Sunan.
Wednesday’s launch was the North’s 14th missile test this year. The most recent was a “tactical guided weapon” on April 16, according to North Korean state media.
On April 25, North Korea held a military parade to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army. ICBMs and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) were on display, and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ordered his military to “prepare nuclear weapons” to be used “at any time.”
North Korea observers are saying that with the upcoming inauguration of President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol and a South Korea-U.S. summit, North Korea may be making provocations to get attention.
According to the JCS, Chairman Won In-choul of the JCS and Commander of the ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Paul LaCamera held a videoconference shortly after North Korea’s ballistic missile launch to share information.
The JCS said that North Korea’s successive ballistic missile launches are “a grave threat to the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula as well as the international community and [are] a clear violation of the UN Security Council resolutions."
South Korea’s National Security Office also convened a National Security Council (NSC) standing committee in response to the missile launch by North Korea. The NSC received reports from JCS chairman Won.
“We strongly condemn North Korea’s launch of a ballistic missile,” NSC members said in a joint statement. “We urge North Korea to cease actions that pose a serious threat to the Korean Peninsula, the region and the international community and urge a return to the path of dialogue and diplomacy and soon as possible.
“Ahead of the launch of the new Yoon Suk-yeol government on May 10, we will make every effort to safeguard our security while firmly responding to any threat based on our strong military response capabilities and the ROK-U.S. alliance.”
At his confirmation hearing on Wednesday, Yoon Suk-yeol’s nominee for defense minister, Lee Jong-sup, made it clear that the missile launch violated UN Security Council resolutions.
Regarding how to respond to nuclear tests by the North, Lee said, “Direct physical confrontations are limited.
“Since it is a strategic provocation, we need a strategic response at a corresponding level,” Lee continued.
“I don’t think that tactical provocations on the ground will be easy for the North because our military’s readiness for such situations is very strong,” Lee said. “But the possibility of the North making such provocations cannot be ruled out.”
BY LIM JEONG-WON [email@example.com]