North Korea says it fired its longest-range missile in response to Washington and Seoul’s military exercises
North Korea announced Friday that the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) it fired on Thursday was a Hwasong-17, the one with the longest potential range in its arsenal, a launch that was attended by leader Kim Jong-un and is intended to respond to the military maneuvers being carried out these days by Seoul and Washington in the south of the peninsula.
Kim “stressed the need to to instill fear in the enemiesto deter in a real way the possibility of war and to reliably guarantee the peaceful life” of North Koreans, the state-run KCNA news agency reported.
The text said the launch was made “in the face of the grave situation whereby the most unstable security environment is being generated on the Korean peninsula due to the frantic, provocative and aggressive war drills large-scale” war drills being conducted by South Korea and the U.S., whose spring maneuvers, Freedom shield, will conclude on March 23.
North Korea regards these exercises as a rehearsal to invade its territory and has promised to give “an unprecedented response.”
According to KCNA, the missile, launched from the Pyongyang airport, “reached a maximum altitude of 6,045 kilometers and flew a distance of 1,000 kilometers for 69 minutes before landing accurately in the predetermined area in the waters of the East Sea (the name given in the two Koreas to the Sea of Japan).”
The projectile crashed about 250 kilometers from the island of Oshima, which is located southwest of the island Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, the Japanese Defense Ministry said Thursday.
The North Korean test took place hours before South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol traveled to Tokyo to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, in what was supposed to the first bilateral visit between the two countries in 12 years.
In fact, both presidents pledged to strengthen their bilateral cooperation in security matters and together with the U.S. vis-à-vis the arms developments North Korea and indicated that they will “normalize” their pact to share military intelligence in real time.
Images released by KCNA show that Kim Jong-un. witnessed the test again accompanied by his daughter.
The state-run agency also released four images taken from space by a camera allegedly placed in the missile.
In Seoul, Lee Hyo-jung, the vice-minister of the Unification portfolio, in charge of relations with the North, assured that “the responsibility and the reason why there is. an escalation of tension on the Korean peninsula rests on the North’s reckless nuclear and missile development.”
“We find it highly regrettable that the North is using the joint exercises between the Republic of Korea (the official name of the South) and the U.S. as a justification for its provocations“, Lee added at a press conference.