https://www.bbc.com-Image source, EPA
Pyongyang is developing a new type of long-range missile
By Jean Mackenzie-Seoul correspondent
North Korea has launched an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), South Korea says.
Pyongyang’s longer range missiles are designed to bring the US mainland within range.
Japan’s Coast Guard said the missile likely landed in the sea roughly 210km (130 miles) west of Hokkaido.
On Thursday North Korea’s Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui warned of a “fiercer” response to US plans to strengthen its regional presence.
It also launched a short range ballistic missile the same day.
That followed Sunday’s meeting between US President Joe Biden, South Korean leader Yoon Suk-yeol and Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on the sidelines of a summit in Cambodia.
Mr Biden later said the three allies were “more aligned than ever” on North Korea’s “provocative behaviour” and his national security adviser vowed a “unified response” if North Korea carried out a seventh nuclear weapon test, which US and South Korean intelligence services have been warning of for months.
North Korea has fired more than 50 missiles over the past two months, most of them short-range. These long-range launches are rarer, and pose a direct threat to the US, as the missiles are designed to carry nuclear warheads to anywhere on the US mainland.
The latest suspected ICBM was fired at 10:15 local time (02:15 GMT) from near the North Korean capital Pyongyang, military chiefs in Seoul said.
It reached an altitude of 6,100km on a lofted trajectory and travelled 1,000km (621 miles), reaching a speed of Mach 22, South Korea’s military said.
But Japan’s defence minister Yasukazu Hamada said the missile had sufficient range to reach the US and was capable of flying as far as 15,000km (9.320 miles).
“We have told (Pyongyang) that we absolutely cannot tolerate such actions,” Mr Kishida told reporters in Thailand.
North Korea’s pattern over the past months has been to launch missiles in response to US military activity around the Korean Peninsula.
It is developing a new type of long-range missile, the Hwasong-17, which is larger than the ICBMs it has successfully tested in the past.
Experts believe several attempts to launch the Hwasong-17 have failed, and the North has not yet been able to get it to fly its full course.
Earlier this month an ICBM it failed mid-flight, according to the South Korean military.
In October, North Korea launched a ballistic missile over Japan – the first time it had done so in five years.
Despite crippling sanctions, Pyongyang conducted six nuclear tests between 2006 and 2017 and is believed to be planning a seventh.
It has also continued to advance its military capability.