North Korea tests longest-range missile since 2017

Japanese and South Korean militaries said the missile reached an altitude of 2,000km and travelled 800km before landing in the sea



People watch a television screen showing a news broadcast with file footage of a North Korean missile test, at a railway station in Seoul. — AFP
People watch a television screen showing a news broadcast with file footage of a North Korean missile test, at a railway station in Seoul. — AFP

By AP

Published: Mon 31 Jan 2022, 2:52 AM

North Korea on Sunday fired what appeared to be the most powerful missile it has tested since President Joe Biden took office, as it revives its old playbook in brinkmanship to wrest concessions from Washington and neighbours amid a prolonged stalemate in diplomacy.

The Japanese and South Korean militaries said the missile was launched on a high trajectory, apparently to avoid the territorial spaces of neighbours, and reached a maximum altitude of 2,000 kilometres and travelled 800 kilometres before landing in the sea.

The flight details suggest the North tested its longest-range ballistic missile since 2017, when it twice flew intermediate-range ballistic missiles over Japan and, separately, three intercontinental ballistic missiles that demonstrated the potential to reach deep into the American homeland.

Sunday’s test was North Korea’s seventh round of launches this month. The unusually fast pace of tests indicates its intent to pressure the Biden administration over long-stalled nuclear negotiations as pandemic-related difficulties put further stress on an economy broken by decades of mismanagement and crippling US-led sanctions

While desperate for outside relief, Kim has showed no willingness to surrender the nuclear weapons and missiles he sees as his strongest guarantee of survival. Analysts say Kim’s pressure campaign is aimed at forcing Washington to accept the North as a nuclear power and convert their nuclear disarmament-for-aid diplomacy into negotiations for mutual arms reduction.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in called an emergency National Security Council meeting where he described the test as a possible “mid-range ballistic missile launch” that brought North Korea to the brink of breaking its 2018 self-imposed moratorium on the testing of nuclear devices and longer-range missiles.

Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi also told reporters that the missile was the longest-range the North has tested since its Hwasong-15 ICBM in November 2017.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un chaired a ruling party meeting on January 20, where senior party members made a veiled threat to lift the moratorium, citing what they perceived as US hostility and threats.

The latest launch suggests Kim’s moratorium is already broken, said Lee Choon Geun, a missile expert and honorary research fellow at South Korea’s Science and Technology Policy Institute.

In his strongest comments toward the North in years, Moon said the situation around the Korean Peninsula is beginning to resemble 2017, when North Korea’s provocative run in nuclear and long-range missile testing resulted in an exchange of war threats between Kim and then-President Donald Trump.

Moon said the North’s latest moves violated UN Security Council resolutions and were a “challenge toward the international community’s efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, stabilise peace and find a diplomatic solution” to the standoff.

The North “should stop its actions that create tensions and pressure and respond to the dialogue offers by the international community including South Korea and the United States,” Moon said, according to his office.


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