SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile that landed close to waters off Japan Friday in its second missile test this month that demonstrated the ability to launch a nuclear attack on the entire U.S. mainland.
The United States quickly condemned the attack and promised to do “everything necessary” to support the security of its borders with its allies in South Korea and Japan. President Kamala Harris met the leaders of those countries and those of Australia, Canada and New Zealand who were attending a regional meeting in Bangkok to discuss the initiative.
“We call again for North Korea to end its illegal, destructive actions. On behalf of the United States, I reaffirm our strong commitment to our Indo-Pacific relationship,” Harris said at the start of the meeting. the body. “The countries represented here will continue to encourage North Korea to engage in a strong and lasting diplomatic process.”
North Korea’s recent dramatic weapons tests intends to develop its nuclear arsenal and gain greater opportunities in diplomacy in the future. This comes as China and Russia have opposed US moves to tighten UN sanctions aimed at curbing North Korea’s nuclear program.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said they detected an ICBM blast from the vicinity of the North Korean capital at around 10:15 am.
According to South Korean and Japanese estimates, the missile flew 6,000-6,100 kilometers (3,600-3,790 miles) and had a maximum range of 1,000 kilometers (620 miles).
Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said that depending on the weight of the warhead, the missile has a range of more than 15,000 kilometers (9,320 miles), “in which case it can cover the entire United States.” .”
National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said the release “raises unnecessary controversy” and shows that North Korea is prioritizing its illegal weapons program over the interests of its own people. “Pyongyang must immediately stop its destructive behavior and choose to engage politically,” Watson said.
In his opening remarks at the meeting in Bangkok, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida called the launch “unacceptable,” saying the missile fell within Japan’s exclusive economic zone in western Hokkaido. South Korean President Han Duck-soo said the world must come together to make North Korea understand that each of its provocations deepens international isolation and economic hardship.
Later on Friday, South Korea’s military said its F-35 fighter jets conducted a missile launch exercise to take out North Korea’s mobile missiles at a missile site near its border with North Korea. He said that a group of eight South Korean and US military aircraft conducted various training exercises on the east coast of the Korean Peninsula.
The event “demonstrates our determination to deal with North Korea’s ICBM missile provocations and threats, as well as our allies’ great capabilities and readiness to launch counterattacks against the enemy,” the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. statement.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol earlier ordered officials to step up defense cooperation with the United States and Japan and implement an unspecified countermeasures previously agreed upon with Washington. Yoon also ordered officials to push for stronger international criticism and sanctions on North Korea, according to his office.
North Korea launched an ICBM on Nov. 3, but experts said the missile failed to intercept its intended flight and crashed into the sea after leveling off. The test is believed to have involved a development missile known as the Hwasong-17. North Korea has two other types of ICBMs – Hwasong-14 and Hwasong-15 – and their tests in 2017 showed that they can reach parts of the US homeland.
The Hwasong-17 has a longer possible range than others, and its large size indicates that it was designed to carry multiple nuclear warheads to defeat the missile defense system. Some experts say that the test Nov. 3 showed some progress in its development, because the Hwansong-17 exploded shortly after being lifted in the first test in March.
It was not immediately clear whether North Korea launched the Hwasong-17 missile on Friday or something else.
In recent months, North Korea has conducted several short-range missile tests that it called a simulation of a nuclear attack on South Korean and US targets.. But it stopped launching the missile about a week before it launched a short-range ballistic missile on Thursday.
Ahead of the launch, North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui threatened to launch a “more serious” military response to US moves to boost its security commitments to South Korea and Japan.
Choe was referring to President Joe Biden’s recent meeting with Yoon and Kishida on the sidelines of a regional conference in Cambodia. In their joint statement, the three leaders strongly condemned North Korea’s recent missile tests and agreed to work together to strengthen deterrence. Biden reiterated the US commitment to protect South Korea and Japan with full capabilities, including nuclear weapons.
Choe did not elaborate on North Korea’s possible course of action but said that “the US will know very well that it is a gamble, which it will regret.”
North Korea sees the presence of US troops in the region as evidence of American hostility. He said his recent disarmament measures were a response to what he called provocative military activities between the United States and South Korea.
There have been concerns that North Korea could conduct its first nuclear test in five years as an important next step in increasing its military capabilities against the United States and its allies.
North Korea has been under a number of United Nations sanctions for its past nuclear and missile tests. But no new restrictions have been put in place this year as it conducts multiple ballistic missile launches, which are banned by a UN Security Council resolution.
China and Russia, two of the veto-wielding members of the Security Council, oppose the new UN sanctions. Washington is locked in a strategic rivalry with Beijing and a conflict with Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.
Yamaguchi reported from Tokyo. Associated Press reporter Krutika Pati in Bangkok contributed to this report.