North Korea Fires Banned Missile Off East Coast, South Korea Says
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North Korea has tested an intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time in almost five years, South Korean defense officials have said.
The missile, which was launched mid-afternoon local time, flew 1,100km reaching an altitude of 6,000km, before falling into waters within Japan's Economic Exclusion Zone.
It would appear to be North Korea's most significant missile test since 2017, with the reported altitude the highest yet recorded by an ICBM launched by the isolated country.
Following South Korea's confirmation of an 'unidentified projectile' launched from the Sunan area of North Korea's capital Pyongyang, Japanese officials said that the range appeared to suggest it was a 'new type' of missile, which flew for 71 minutes before splashing down off the coast of the country's northern Aomori prefecture.
North Korea is banned from testing ballistic missiles by the United Nations, and has previously faced strict international sanctions as a consequence of similar launches.
In 2017 the country's leader Kim Jong-un issued a moratorium on ICBM testing following talks with then US President Donald Trump, however in an announcement on 19 January state news agency KCNA said the country would resume 'all temporally suspended activities' and bolster its defences against the United States.
Over the past year North Korea has resumed missile testing at a fast pace, with January 2021 seeing the most launches ever carried out by the country. It is also believed to be preparing to resume tactical nuclear tests.
Earlier this month, North Korea released images which it claimed were taken by a rocket fired as part of a test for a new satellite system, however the Pentagon has since said it believes that launch, as well as an earlier test in February, was actually a trial for parts of the Hwasong-17 missile - the largest ICBM North Korea has developed.
"The purpose of these tests, which did not demonstrate ICBM range, was likely to evaluate this new system before conducting a test at full range in the future, potentially disguised as a space launch," a US official said.
The Hwasong-17 missile was first unveiled by North Korea during a military parade in October 2020, and is said to be 'considerably larger' than the country's other ICBM, the Hwasong-15.
The development of the Hwasong-17 is seen as a major escalation in North Korea's attempt to develop missiles capable of reaching US cities.
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