North Korea is at it again with its live-fire testing provocations, this time with another suspected intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that landed just a hundred miles off Japan on Friday, November 18.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff told reporters that “the ICBM was launched around 10:15 AM local time from the Sunan area” of Pyongyang “and flew about 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) east” at a projected maximum speed of Mach 22.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida then said, in a separate statement, that while the ballistic missile did not fly over the country, it most probably had fallen within Japan’s exclusive economic zone, about 210 kilometers (130 miles) west of Oshima-Oshima Island in Hokkaido—an eerily “sufficient range that could reach the mainland” of America. Boasting that Pyongyang could, if need be, launch an attack and reach cities in the US. Fortunately, no damages were reported due to the latest firing, but Kishida reiterated that the North’s repeated missile launches are and will not be tolerated.
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By now, North Korea is just pushing the international community further on edge, waiting to see how far it could stretch before finally bursting everyone’s bubble of patience. According to Reuters, Friday’s launch comes a day after Pyongyang launched smaller missiles as a warning of “fiercer military responses” to the increasing presence of the US in the region. Meanwhile, South Korean and Japanese officials, as well as the US, have again stressed their condemnation of these provocations from North Korea, with each underlining how Pyongyang is “trying to disrupt international cooperation.”
“Pyongyang is trying to disrupt international cooperation against it by escalating military tensions and suggesting it has the capability of holding American cities at risk of nuclear attack,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.
The US National Security Council, through its spokesperson Adrienne Watson, released a statement regarding the latest test firing, strongly criticizing Pyongyang’s launch as “a brazen violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions and needlessly raises tensions and risks destabilizing the security situation in the region.”
Tensions continued to escalate, especially after the recent ASEAN summit meeting and the ongoing Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, where US Vice President Kamala Harris is slated to meet leaders of Japan, South Korea, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand on the sidelines in Thailand The latest ballistic launch by North Korea will be discussed during the meeting.
Friday’s ICBM launch is the second suspected test launch after an earlier missile reported on November 3, which appeared to have failed. This would be the eighth ICBM test this year alone by North Korea, according to the tally maintained by the US State Department—a record-breaking for Pyongyang since it resumed its self-imposed moratorium on its missile program in 2017.
Earlier this year, North Korea tested its biggest ICBM yet, which traveled nearly 68 minutes and reached an altitude of 6,248.5 km (3,905 miles), as reported by its state media, Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) at the time.
A day before the latest launch, North Korea’s foreign minister Choe Son Hui expressed disapproval following the trilateral meeting between the US, South Korea, and Japan and has also spoken out on the cooperations’ “war drills.” According to DW News, Choe stated that such drills for aggression will only pull these nations into a “more serious, realistic and inevitable threat upon themselves.”
Choe continued: “The keener the US is on the ‘bolstered offer of extended deterrence’ to its allies and the more they intensify provocative and bluffing military activities … the fiercer the DPRK’s military counteraction will be.”
“The US will be well aware that it is gambling, for which it will certainly regret,” the foreign minister added.
Unlike a cruise missile, which is powered by a jet engine and stays within the atmosphere, a ballistic missile is launched through a rocket and can travel as far as the Earth’s outside atmosphere with a gliding capability that could then enable itself to re-enter and descend now through the use of gravity to its target. North Korea has been working on developing ballistic missiles in recent years alongside its nuclear weapon program.
There have been speculations and predictions as to when the nuclear program will resume in Pyongyang, but as of date, it remains a mystery when it will actually commence. Nevertheless, as detected through satellite imagery, US intelligence and other international observers have noted North Korea’s seemingly preparing for an underground test for months. Not to mention the series of missile testing that has been occurring since late September.
With the continuous “brazen violations,” it could only be a matter of time before North Korea would again bear sanctions that would further isolate itself away from the international community—that, or tensions might escalate that would break into an all-out war.