North Korea launches missiles that could be new type of weapon

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SEOUL(AP) North Korea conducted its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch in a month and may have tested a new, more mobile and difficult-to-detect missile for the first time. said the neighboring countries. Weapon testing provocation.

Japan briefly urged residents of the northern islands to seek shelter in a show of vigilance against North Korea’s evolving missile threat.

The missile was launched at a high angle from near the North Korean capital Pyongyang and flew 1,000 kilometers before falling into the waters between the Korean peninsula and Japan, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

It described its range as medium or longer. The US National Security Council called it a long-range missile, and the Japanese government said it would likely have an intercontinental range. The South Korean military believes North Korea has launched a new type of ballistic missile, likely solid-fuel, said the defense official, who requested anonymity due to agency rules.

If the launch included a solid-fuel ICBM, this would be North Korea’s first test of such a weapon. All of North Korea’s famous intercontinental ballistic missiles use liquid propellant and must be refueled before launch. However, solid fuel weapons are already loaded with fuel, making them easier to move and firing faster.

Japan’s Defense Minister Hamada told reporters that the missile launched by North Korea on Thursday failed to reach Japan’s exclusive economic zone. However, Japanese authorities have urged people on Hokkaido’s northernmost island to evacuate and temporarily suspended train, bus and subway services. 

The government then withdrew the missile warning, saying there was no chance of a missile landing near Hokkaido. Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters the warning was based on an early assessment of the missile’s trajectory by Japan’s defense ministry and was a “reasonable” step to prioritize public safety. rice field. Japanese officials issued a similar evacuation order in October with a launch that indicated a North Korean medium-range missile flew over Japan and could reach Guam in the US-Pacific region.

Thursday’s launch was North Korea’s first long-range missile since it tested its longest-range Hwasong-17 liquid-fueled ICBM on March 16. Practical and offensive” method.

Since her early 2022, North Korea has launched about 100 missiles, many of which are nuclear-armed weapons, putting the continental United States, South Korea, or Japan within range.

North Korea’s trials are largely seen as a protest against South Korean and US military exercises and a rehearsal for aggression. Some observers say North Korea is using rival exercises as an excuse to modernize its arsenal and pressure Washington and Seoul to make concessions, such as lifting economic sanctions. South Korean and U.S. officials say their training was defensive in nature and arranged to respond to North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile threats.

Later on Thursday, China, North Korea’s last major ally, reiterated its guilt over growing hostility toward the United States and South Korea.

“Everyone can see the negative impact of the US military exercises and strategic weapons deployed around the peninsula a few days ago,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a news conference.

North Korea unveiled a new type of nuclear warhead in late March, sparking fears it could conduct its first nuclear test in more than five years. Foreign experts debate whether North Korea has developed warheads that are small and light enough to fit more advanced missiles.

A South Korean official said North Korea had not responded to South Korean calls to a number of cross-border inter-Korean hotlines for about a week. Designed to prevent accidental collisions in waters.

On Tuesday, South Korea’s Unification Minister Kwon Yong-se expressed “strong regret” over North Korea’s “unilateral and irresponsible attitude” toward the hotline.

North Korea’s advancing nuclear arsenal is expected to be a key issue at the summit between South Korean Presidents Yoon Seok-yeol and Joe Biden in Washington later this month. Experts say discussions between world leaders could be crucial at Japan’s G7 meeting in May to maintain diplomatic pressure on North Korea. . Permanent members of the UN Security Council, China and Russia, have blocked tougher sanctions against North Korea in recent months, highlighting a deepening rift from Russia’s war on Ukraine. .