North Korea is back at it again with its missile test launching provocations, triggering a scare in northern Japan.
On Thursday, nuclear-armed North Korea reportedly fired what appears to be its new solid-fuel, long-range ballistic missile (ICBM) dubbed “Hwasong-18” into the East Sea.
Without forewarning, the launch test triggered blaring sirens and automated “seek shelter” alert messages across residents in northern Japan around 8 AM Thursday as the missile appeared to home eastward “at a high angle.”
About fifteen minutes later, authorities finally switched the alarm off after getting updated information about the missile’s trajectory.
Japan showing TVs urging all residents in the Hokkaido Peninsula to seek shelter as the ballistic missile from North Korea was expected to land in the area
Japanese government has sent a warning to all aircraft in the area. pic.twitter.com/7mTqJXyPoS
— Truthseeker (@Xx17965797N) April 13, 2023
Japan’s defense minister, Yasukazu Hamada, later said the missile did not fall into Japanese territory. At the same time, the coast guards confirmed that the projectile plunged somewhere into the sea east of North Korea by 8:19 AM.
Shortly after breathing a sigh of relief, Japan and allies South Korea and the United States issued strong condemnation statements regarding the North’s latest ICBM shenanigans.
Nuclear diplomats from allies called out the recent launch a constant threat to regional peace with “unprecedented levels of provocations and menacing words,” as South Korea’s foreign ministry puts it.
“North Korea’s series of actions, including its repeated launches of ballistic missiles, is a threat to Japan, the region, and the world,” said Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno.
Furthermore, Seoul military officials told reporters that “[t]he missile’s maximum altitude was lower than 6,000 [kilometers], the apogee of some of last year’s record-breaking tests.”
It continued: “So far we assess that they fired a new type of ballistic missile with an intermediate or intercontinental range. We’re still analyzing details like the trajectory, altitude, and range, with the possibility that it carried a solid-fuel propellant.”
“There is a possibility that North Korea was testing a part of a reconnaissance satellite, such as a sensor,” officials added.
Japan had issued a warning to residents of Japan's northernmost island of Hokkaido amid risks that Pyongyang's missile could land near the island. pic.twitter.com/8JKtfkRWY1
— Indo-Pacific News – Geo-Politics & Military News (@IndoPac_Info) April 13, 2023
They also speculated that the missile used in the test launch appeared to be the Hwasong-18, which Pyongyang showcased during a February military parade. Reportedly, the ICBM traveled 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.
The following day, Friday, North Korean state-own media, Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), confirmed the identification that the missile was indeed the Hwasong-18 ICBM.
It added that the country’s supreme leader Kim Jong-un has claimed that the launch “radically promote the effectiveness of its nuclear counterattack posture and bring about a change in the practicality of its offensive military strategy,” Yonhap News Agency reported.
The new strategic weapon also successfully demonstrated its capacity to cover all parameters of North’s territory and has “fully met requirements of the design in terms of accuracy.”
KCNA said that the missile’s first stage landed in waters 10 km (6.2 mi) off Kumya County, a province near the Sea of Japan in the east. Meanwhile, the second stage sank into waters 335 km (208 mi) east of Orang County, another region located near the coast of the Sea of Japan.
BREAKING 🚨 North Korea’s state TV has released the video footage of the Hwasong-18 solid-fuel ICBM launch. The launch test briefly ordered residents on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido to evacuate. pic.twitter.com/x5OTnSEivV
— Insider Paper (@TheInsiderPaper) April 14, 2023
It further noted that Pyongyang would continue to pursue “offensive” actions in response to “escalations” caused by adversaries, including joint military exercises.
Despite sounding like a broken record with its denunciation statements against this series of missile tests from North Korea, the door to diplomacy with the United States remains open for Pyongyang as long as the latter would “immediately cease its destabilizing actions,” US National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement.
“The United States will take all necessary measures to ensure the security of the American homeland and the Republic of Korea and Japanese allies,” she added.
Little is known about North Korea’s new plaything apart from being a solid-fuel ICBM capable of a quick launch than its predecessors.
It also claimed that the missile would be more difficult to detect before launch, thus posing a more potent threat.
Hwasong-18 is speculated to be initially unveiled during a military parade earlier this year alongside the country’s largest ICBM, Hwasong-17—which Pyongyang claimed can strike nearly anywhere in the world with a nuclear payload.
BREAKING: First images of North Korea's new Hwasong-18 solid-fuel ICBM released by state media Friday. It was test launched Thursday in the presence of Kim Jong Un and his daughter
— NK NEWS (@nknewsorg) April 13, 2023
Moreover, KCNA described the new solid-fuel ICBM as a three-stage missile, but as mentioned earlier, the Thursday launch only demonstrated at least two. It remains unclear whether the third stage has been activated.
Last year, North Korea fire-tested an unprecedented number of its nuclear-capable weapons. It looks like this year will set another record, as this year alone, the country has already fired around 30 missiles over 12 different launch events.
Coinciding whenever joint military activities occur between South Korea and the US, the North seems to continue this seemingly endless pattern—unless one party decides to break it finally.