North Korea fires ‘long-range’ missile, in possible ICBM test

North Korea launched a “long-range” missile, South Korea said, fueling speculation that the country might have tested its first intercontinental ballistic missile in more than four years.

North Korea launched a “long-range” missile, South Korea said, fueling speculation that the country might have tested its first intercontinental ballistic missile in more than four years.

The unidentified projectile was launched Thursday afternoon and traveled toward waters off North Korea’s eastern coast, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said. The missile climbed at a steep angle and reached a high altitude, the joint chiefs said.

The missile was expected to land inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone, off the coast of Aomori prefecture, the Japan Coast Guard said. The rocket was aloft for about an hour, Kyodo News reported, citing the coast guard.

Concerns have been mounting that North Korea was looking to fire off its first ICBM in after Yonhap News Agency reported this month South Korea and the US have detected signs of an imminent ICBM launch. North Korea fired off projectiles from a multi-rocket launcher Sunday.

North Korea typically does not comment on its tests until the next day. The country has described recent tests as efforts to launch a satellite.

On March 16, North Korea fired a suspected ballistic missile from an area near Pyongyang’s international airport. South Korea’s military believes the test ended in failure with the missile exploding before reaching an altitude of 20 kilometers (12 miles), Yonhap said.

North Korea often uses its missile launches for political purposes and the latest test comes after neighbor South Korea elected conservative Yoon Suk-yeol to be its new president. Yoon riled North Korea on the campaign trail by saying a preemptive strike would be justified if an attack by the neighbor seems imminent – setting the stage for further friction when he takes office in May.

The latest launch comes after the US announced new penalties against North Korea after determining that a pair of purported satellite launches by Kim Jong Un’s regime in the past few weeks were used to test systems for a long-anticipated new ICBM.

The US had said earlier that North Korean launches on Feb. 26 and March 4 that were also from the area around the Pyongyang airport were intended to test elements of an ICBM that weapons experts believe could be armed with multiple warheads.

North Korea’s last test of an ICBM was in November 2017, when it fired a Hwasong-15 with a range that experts said could strike all of the US mainland. It was a major breakthrough in Kim’s efforts to deliver a nuclear weapon to any American city.

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