SEOUL (Dispatches) -- North Korea fired a suspected intercontinental ballistic missile Friday, Seoul’s military said, the second launch in two days as Pyongyang continues a record-breaking blitz that has sent fears of a nuclear test soaring.
A South Korean defense official told AFP that they “estimated that North Korea had fired an ICBM”, without giving further details.
Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff earlier said it had detected the “launch of an unidentified ballistic missile in an eastward direction”.
Tokyo also confirmed the launch, with Japan’s defense ministry saying Pyongyang had fired “a suspected ballistic missile,” as the coastguard warned ships not to approach fallen debris in the water.
Japan’s defense minister, Yasukazu Hamada, said the missile had sufficient range to reach the United States mainland.
The projectile, in the class of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), reached an altitude of 6,000 km (3,730 miles), covering a range of 1,000 km (622 miles), Hamada told reporters. It landed about 200 km (124 miles) west of Oshima-Oshima island in the northern prefecture of Hokkaido.
The launch comes a day after North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile as its minister of foreign affairs, Choe Son Hui, warned Pyongyang would take “fiercer” military action if the United States strengthened its “extended deterrence” commitment to regional allies.
“Now, it’s estimated to be an ICBM, if that’s the case, it is a clear message to the U.S. and Japan,” said Han Kwon-hee, manager of the Missile Strategy Forum.
Earlier this month, North Korea conducted a flurry of launches, including an intercontinental ballistic missile, which Seoul said at the time appeared to have failed.
Pyongyang also fired a short-range ballistic missile that crossed the de facto maritime border between the two countries and landed near the South’s territorial waters for the first time since the end of the Korean War in 1953.
Both launches were part of a
November 2 barrage in which Pyongyang fired 23 missiles -- more than it launched during the whole of 2017, the year of “fire and fury” when Kim traded barbs with then U.S. president Donald Trump on Twitter and in state media.
Washington has stoked tensions by extending exercises with South Korea and deploying a strategic bomber.
Russia on Friday said that the United States was testing the patience of North Korea.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia Sergei Ryabkov told the state-run RIA Novosti news agency that while Moscow prefers a diplomatic approach towards the Korean peninsula, “it’s been particularly evident recently that the United States and its allies in the region, prefer a different path.”
“It’s as if Pyongyang’s patience is being tested,” he was cited as saying.