North Korea said it fired a Hwasong-18 intercontinental ballistic missile on Wednesday

North Korea said the intercontinental ballistic missile it launched on Wednesday, which flew for more than 70 minutes, was a Hwasong-18, marking a potential new round of confrontation with Washington and its allies.

The 74-minute flight time represents a marginal advance over missiles tested by North Korea in March and April this year, both of which were also ICBMs – weapons with the range required to potentially hit the American mainland.

Wednesday’s launch, which landed in waters near Japan, comes after Pyongyang threatened earlier this week to shoot down a US military reconnaissance plane carrying out what it called “hostile espionage” activities. “near his territory.

The Hwasong-18, a type of solid-fueled weapon that is harder to detect and intercept than other liquid-fueled ICBMs in the North, was first launched in April. Analysts say the Hwasong-18 could allow North Korea to launch long-range nuclear strikes more quickly and easily as it ramps up its missile program.

The state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that Wednesday’s missile launch was carried out “at a serious time when the military security situation on the Korean peninsula and in the region has reached the nuclear crisis stage beyond the Cold War era as the United States and its vassal forces’ unprecedented military provocations against the DPRK escalated.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un personally guided the test firing of the Hwasong-18, KCNA said Thursday local time.

The missile launch and heated rhetoric, while not unusual for Pyongyang, comes during a time of heightened tensions on the peninsula as Washington and Seoul step up defense cooperation. It also appears timed to coincide with the NATO summit in Lithuania, where the leaders of South Korea, Japan and the United States meet to discuss security issues – including the threat posed by South Korea. North.

The latest missile launch, the country’s first in three months, traveled a distance of about 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) and at an altitude of more than 6,000 kilometers (3,700 miles) for more than 74 minutes, according to KCNA.

Flight times give an indication of the range of a missile. North Korea tests most of its missiles on a very high trajectory so that they crash into nearby waters, rather than a flatter trajectory such as would be used in an actual attack.

The Japanese Coast Guard said earlier the missile was launched at 9:59 a.m. local time and landed in the Sea of ​​Japan, also known as the East Sea, at 11:15 a.m., citing the Defense Ministry.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has previously called the Hwasong-18 his most powerful nuclear weapon – although there is no indication the missile can successfully deliver a nuclear payload.

“North Korea appears to be continuously advancing missile technology based on the first test launch result,” Kim Dong-yub, a professor at the University of North Korea Studies in Seoul, told CNN on Wednesday.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol held an emergency National Security Council meeting in Lithuania on Wednesday morning in response to the missile launch, Yoon’s press office said in a statement. Yoon is in Vilnius to attend the NATO summit.

The South Korean leader said he would call for “strong international solidarity” at the NATO summit in response to North Korea’s launch, according to his office.

US condemns ‘brazen’ test

Washington condemned North Korea’s missile test, with US National Security Council spokesman Adam Hodge calling it “a brazen violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions and which unnecessarily increases tensions and risks destabilizing the security situation in the region”.

Hodge called on all countries to condemn the violation and called on North Korea to “come to the table for serious negotiations.”

“The door is not closed on diplomacy, but Pyongyang must immediately cease its destabilizing actions and choose diplomatic engagement instead. The United States will take all necessary measures to ensure the security of the American homeland and the Republic of Korea and Japanese allies.”

A statement from Tuesday’s NATO meeting urged North Korea to abandon its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs.

“We call on (North Korea) to accept repeated offers of dialogue made by all relevant parties, including Japan, the United States and the Republic of Korea,” the statement said.

But North Korea has shown no signs that it is willing to enter into negotiations with Washington or Seoul.

Wednesday’s ICBM test follows threats from Kim Yo Jong, a senior North Korean official and sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who accused a US spy plane of entering the North’s exclusive economic zone in minus eight times on Monday.

“In the event of repeated illegal intrusions, US forces will suffer a very critical leak,” Kim warned in a statement released by the North Korean state news agency on Tuesday.

The United States and South Korea denied the accusations and urged North Korea to stop creating tension with false allegations.

Leif-Eric Easley, associate professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, said Kim’s accusations were part of a North Korean pattern of inflating external threats to rally domestic support and justify the weapons testing.

“Pyongyang is also timing its shows of force to disrupt what it perceives as diplomatic coordination against it, in this case, the meeting of South Korean and Japanese leaders at the NATO summit,” Easley said.

North Korea holds a rally denouncing the United States in a state media photo dated June 26, 2023. - Rodong Sinmun

North Korea holds a rally denouncing the United States in a state media photo dated June 26, 2023. – Rodong Sinmun

Last month, tens of thousands of North Koreans demonstrated at anti-US rallies in Pyongyang, marking the 73rd anniversary of the start of the Korean War. Attendees denounced the United States as “a destroyer of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula” and warned against nuclear war, according to state media.

Meanwhile, South Korea, the United States and Japan have held joint, trilateral military exercises aimed at deterring any North Korean military threats.

Wednesday’s launch comes two weeks before North Korea marks the 70th anniversary of the Korean Armistice Agreement, which led to the Korean War cessation of hostilities, and weeks after the failed launch of the first spy satellite in May.

CNN’s Junko Ogura, Emiko Jozuka and Allie Malloy contributed to this report.

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