NORTH KOREA: As a warning to Washington and Seoul, North Korea claimed to have successfully test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile on Sunday.
Pyongyang claimed the successful “surprise” exercise proved it has the “power of a deadly nuclear counterattack.”
A Hwasong-15 missile, a weapon North Korea first tested in 2017, was shot from Pyongyang Airport that afternoon, according to the official KCNA, after Leader Kim Jong Un ordered the “sudden launching drill” at 8 a.m. Saturday (2300 GMT).
The military of South Korea reported that an ICBM launch was detected at 17:22 (08:22 GMT) on Saturday.
Japan claimed that the ICBM launched could hit the continental United States and flew for 66 minutes before coming to rest in its Exclusive Economic Zone.
The test was the first one North Korea had done in seven weeks. The country’s leaders said it showed “the true war capability of the ICBM units, which are ready for a mobile and overwhelming counterattack,” according to KCNA.
The country’s “ability of lethal nuclear counterattack on the hostile forces” was demonstrated by the launch.
The launch, which broke the rules, happened just days before Seoul and Washington were set to start tabletop exercises that were meant to make them better at what to do if North Korea used nuclear weapons.
Last week, Pyongyang warned that it would respond “unprecedentedly” and forcefully to impending US-South Korea drills, which it defines as war preparations and holds responsible for the deteriorating security situation on the Korean peninsula.
Ankit Panda, a US-based expert, said that the test on Saturday is notable since “the event was ordered the day of, and hence this is not so much a regular ‘test,’ as an exercise.”
“We should anticipate seeing more exercises of this nature,” he continued.
Professor Yang Moo-jin of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul said that the test showed that Pyongyang could launch even a liquid-fueled ICBM in less than half a day in response to unexpected orders without planning ahead.
He predicted that the peninsula’s security situation would worsen in the coming months “because South Korea and the US are expected to proceed with the joint training programme and North Korea will… take a tough response.”
Relations between the two Koreas are already at their worst point in years because North Korea says it is an “irreversible” nuclear state and leader Kim wants an “exponential” increase in weapon production, including tactical nuclear weapons.
South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol has promised to expand joint military drills and improve Washington’s “extended deterrence” offer, including nuclear weapons, to improve relations with the United States, which is South Korea’s main security ally.
Kim Yo Jong, a spokeswoman for North Korea and Kim’s sister, reportedly said on Sunday that these actions by Seoul and Washington “further imperil the situation every moment, shattering the stability of the area.” This is according to a KCNA report.
“I want to warn you that we will closely watch everything the enemy does and put together an effective, strong, and overwhelming response to everything it does to hurt us,” she said.
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