North Korea launches ICBM before South Korea-Japan summit


SEOUL, March 16 (UPI) — North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic missile into the sea Thursday morning, Seoul’s military said, hours before the leaders of South Korea and Japan were set to hold a summit on regional security issues in Tokyo.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said it detected the ICBM launch at around 7:10 a.m. The missile was fired from the Sunan area of Pyongyang at a lofted angle and landed in the East Sea after flying for around 620 miles, the JCS said in a text message to reporters.


“South Korean and U.S. intelligence authorities are conducting a comprehensive analysis in consideration of recent trends related to North Korea’s missile development,” the message said.

The White House condemned the launch as “a flagrant violation of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions.”

“While U.S. [Indo-Pacific Command] has assessed it did not pose an immediate threat to U.S. personnel, or territory, or to our allies, this launch needlessly raises tensions and risks destabilizing the security situation in the region,” National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a statement. “It only demonstrates that the DPRK continues to prioritize its unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs over the well-being of its people.”


The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is the official name of North Korea.

Japan’s Ministry of Defense also reported the launch, saying that the missile flew for 70 minutes and reached a maximum altitude of over 3,700 miles before landing in the sea roughly 125 miles west of Oshima Island off of Hokkaido, outside of the country’s exclusive economic zone.

North Korea fired a Hwasong-15 ICBM last month, which Japanese officials assessed had the capacity to reach the entire United States.

The launch came hours before South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol headed to Tokyo for a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in the neighbors’ first bilateral visit in 12 years.

Seoul and Tokyo are moving to improve tattered relations amid growing threats from North Korea’s nuclear program. Last week, Yoon’s administration put forth a proposal to compensate victims of Japanese wartime forced labor in a watershed effort to settle a bitter dispute.

Pyongyang’s ICBM launch was the latest in a flurry of weapons tests that have coincided with the U.S.-South Korea Freedom Shield joint military exercise, which kicked off Monday and is scheduled to run until March 23.

North Korea has frequently condemned the allies’ joint drills as preparation for an invasion and warned last month of “unprecedentedly persistent and strong counteractions” to the exercise.


The North launched a pair of ballistic missiles on Tuesday and fired cruise missiles from a submarine on Sunday. Last week, the secretive regime launched six short-range ballistic missiles in what North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called preparation for an “actual war response.”