North Korea Launches First Intercontinental Missile Since 2017

North Korea launched what appeared to be an ICBM intercontinental ballistic missile on Thursday, March 24, the governments of Japan and South Korea concluded. This appears to be Pyongyang’s first long-range missile launch since 2017.

Japan’s Defense Ministry said the North Korean missile flew more than 70 minutes before landing in Japan’s exclusive economic zone, just 170 kilometers west of Aomori Prefecture, North Japan.

The missile reached an altitude of 6,000 kilometers and had a range of 1,100 kilometers, according to Japanese officials, who said the weapon appeared to be a new type of ICBM.

At an emergency meeting of South Korea’s National Security Council, South Korean President Moon Jae-in “strongly condemned” the launch, saying it violated North Korea’s self-imposed moratorium on long-range launches.

North Korea has repeatedly warned that it is preparing to launch a military spy satellite. US officials say such a launch would be essentially a long-range missile test and might involve a new powerful ICBM that experts say can carry multiple warheads.

North Korea has not launched a satellite since 2016. Its most recent ICBM test was carried out in 2017, at the height of tensions between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and former US president Donald Trump.

Kim announced his self-imposed moratorium on ICBMs and nuclear tests in 2018, amidst talks with Trump and his South Korean counterpart, President Moon Jae-in. The moratorium now appears to be no longer in effect.

North Korea has conducted 12 missile tests this year, including at least two it says are preparing for satellite launches.

It is not yet clear whether North Korea’s latest launch involved a satellite. North Korea has not yet commented on the test. The country usually doesn’t announce its missile activity until the next morning in state media. [uh/ab]