North Korea launches most powerful long-range missile since South Korea-US summit

  • By Jean Mackenzie
  • Seoul Correspondent

image caption,

South Korean television showed the launch of a suspected long-range missile on Monday

North Korea launched its most advanced long-range missile, South Korean officials said, in defiance of UN sanctions.

The launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) drew immediate condemnation from the West. It landed west of Hokkaido, Japan.

It comes after North Korean and US security officials met last week to update plans on how to respond to a nuclear attack from the North.

Pyongyang vowed to take “more offensive countermeasures” in response.

The isolated state launched a long-range missile from the Pyongyang region at 08:24 local time (Sunday GMT) on Monday morning.

South Korean and Japanese officials said the missile traveled about 1,000 km (621 miles) and took 73 minutes.

ICBMs have a range that reaches the North American continent. Monday’s launch was North Korea’s fifth successful ICBM launch this year.

South Korea, Japan and the United States condemned the missile test on Monday, saying it violated UN Security Council resolutions and would make the Korean Peninsula less secure.

Last week, South Korea’s national security adviser Kim Tae-hyo said he expected the North to launch an ICBM at some point in December.

On Monday, South Korean national defense officials confirmed the ICBM launch was a solid-fuel missile. Such missiles can be launched with less caution because they do not need to be fueled before launch.

It is also working on developing a new solid-fuel medium-range ballistic missile. It said it had successfully tested the engine last month, but said the missile has yet to be successfully launched.

As North Korea continues to refine and add nuclear weapons to its arsenal, South Korea and the United States are stepping up security in the region.

At a meeting in Washington on Friday, officials updated their contingency plans on how to respond to a North Korean nuclear attack. The two countries also agreed to use nuclear weapons in their military exercises next summer.

Meanwhile, North Korea is deepening ties with China and Russia. On Monday, its officials met Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing.

While other countries quickly condemned Monday’s launch, Wang Yi expressed China’s support for Pyongyang. China and North Korea have “always firmly supported and trusted each other,” he said, according to a statement read by the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

From May 2022, China and Russia will join the UN. As the Security Council voted against further sanctions, North Korea was able to test the weapons with little consequence.

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