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North Korea tests three new missiles, including ICBM, South Korea says

According to South Korea's military, North Korea fired three ballistic missiles on Wednesday morning (May 25th), one of them being a presumed ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile).


These launches mark the 16th time that North Korea has tested its missiles this year. By comparison, it conducted only four tests in 2020, and eight in 2021.


South Korea claimed the tests started at 6 am local time Wednesday with the presumed ICBM, which flew about 360 kilometres (223 miles) with an altitude of approximately 540 kilometres (335 miles).


The missile appeared to have been the Hwasong-17, North Korea’s largest-known ICBM, Kim Tae-Hyo, first deputy director of the National Security Office of President Yoon Suk-yeol of South Korea, said. However, Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies and missile expert, said this was not likely a full ICBM due to its short flight range.


The North fired a second ballistic missile at 6:37 am, which disappeared from South Korean tracking at an altitude of 20 kilometres (12 miles). The third projectile was a short-range ballistic missile that flew about 760 kilometres (472 miles)


Shortly after North Korea's tests, the South Korean and the US militaries each fired a missile into the sea off the Korean Peninsula to demonstrate the allies’ "ability and readiness to precisely strike the origin of provocation", as well as its “swift striking capability to deter further provocations from North Korea".


Japan also reported at least two tests on Wednesday, acknowledging there may have been more.


Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said that one of the missiles, which flew in an "irregular trajectory" for about 750 kilometres (466 miles), landed outside Japan's Exclusive Economic Zone.


Kishi affirmed the tests were "an act of provocation and absolutely impermissible." He accused North Korea of being focused on developing the country's nuclear program while "ignoring the people's suffering amid the spread of the coronavirus in the country."


The tests came only a few hours after US President Joe Biden left Asia, following a trip where he reaffirmed the US commitment to defend South Korea from the North's nuclear threat. In a meeting with the South Korean president, Yoon Suk-yeol, Mr Biden confirmed that the United States are "prepared for anything North Korea does".


Yoon Suk-yeol has already emphasized his tougher stance on North Korea, in contrast to his predecessor Moon Jae-in, whose politics focused more on dialogue and peaceful reconciliation. The president refuses to ease sanctions or prepare a peace treaty until the North "makes active efforts in complete and verifiable denuclearization".


Nonetheless, Yoon Suk-yeol claimed to have an "audacious plan" to develop North Korea's economy in exchange for denuclearization and added that he does not believe "that enhancing [North Korea's] nuclear capability is helpful and conducive to maintaining international peace."


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Cover image: People watch a news programme showing North Korea's missile launches at a train station in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, May 25, 2022 [Lee Jin-man/ AP]


 


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