North Korea missile tests: Biggest launch since 2017

North Korea has conducted what is thought to be its biggest missile launch since 2017.

South Korea reported that the launch took place at 07:52 local time on Sunday (22:52 GMT) off North Korea’s east coast.

Japan, South Korea and the US have all condemned the launch, the seventh test this month.

The UN prohibits North Korea from ballistic and nuclear weapons tests, and has imposed strict sanctions.

But the East Asian state regularly defies the ban, and leader Kim Jong-un has vowed to bolster his country’s defences.

South Korea’s National Security Council said Sunday’s test was an intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM), which would be the biggest missile tested since November 2017.

Japanese and South Korean officials estimated that the missile reached an altitude of 2,000km (1240 miles) and flew for 30 minutes to a distance of 800km (500 miles). It landed in the Sea of Japan.

The United States called on North Korea to “refrain from further destabilising acts”, in a statement issued by the US military’s Indo-Pacific Command.

South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, said that January’s flurry of missile tests was reminiscent of the heightened tensions in 2017, when North Korea conducted several nuclear tests and launched its largest missiles, including some that flew over Japan.

Earlier this month, North Korea claimed to have conducted a third test of a hypersonic missile, which are harder to track than ballistic missiles. It was the first time since March 2020 that Kim Jong-un, has been known to attend a missile launch.

In an address before New Year, Mr Kim called for the military to be strengthened with cutting-edge technology.

Since then, several different types of weapon have reportedly been tested using a range of launch locations.

In 2018, Mr Kim announced a moratorium on testing nuclear weapons or its longest range intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). It is unclear if the smaller IRBMs were included in the moratorium, but none have been tested since 2017.

But the North Korean leader said in 2019 he is no longer bound by the moratorium.

The US imposed more sanctions on North Korea earlier in January, in response to previous missile launches. Talks between the two countries have stalled since US President Joe Biden took office.


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