North Korea fires missile into East Sea

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North Korea fires missile into East Sea

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North Korea fired an unidentified missile near the Banghyon air base in Kusong, North Pyongan Province, on Sunday at 7:55 a.m. into the East Sea, according to the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The air base is around 45 kilometers (28 miles) west of the Yongbyun nuclear facility, the centerpiece of the North’s nuclear program. Local sources estimate there are some 300 military drones installed at Banghyon.

On Oct. 15, 2016, Pyongyang test-fired an intermediate-range Musudan missile from the airbase but it exploded within seconds after its launch, an embarrassment to the communist regime.

The latest launch came amid heightened tension in Northeast Asia and the United States after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un declared in a New Year’s speech on Jan. 1 that the regime was in its “final stage” of test-firing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the first of its kind.

A spokesman from the North’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said shortly thereafter that the launch will be held “any time, any where” Kim wishes.

It is not yet known whether the missile on Sunday morning was an ICBM, although local pundits downplayed the scenario.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN, LEE JI-SANG [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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