SEOUL/TOKYO, April 13 (Reuters) – North Korea fired a new model of a long-range ballistic missile on Thursday, South Korea said, sparking panic in northern Japan, where residents were told to take cover, although t came out without danger.
A South Korean military official said the missile appears to be a new weapon displayed in recent North Korean military parades, and may use solid fuel.
The missile flew about 1,000 km (620 miles), South Korea’s military said, calling it a “grave provocation”. The official said the missile’s maximum altitude was less than 6,000km, the apogee of some of the record-breaking tests last year.
“Right now we are assessing that they fired a new type of ballistic missile with an intermediate or intercontinental range,” the official said. “We are still checking details such as trajectory, altitude and range, with the possibility that it is carrying solid-fuel propellant.”
South Korea’s military said it was on high alert and in close contact with its main ally, the United States, which “strongly condemned” what the White House said in a statement was a long-range ballistic missile test.
North Korea is working to develop more solid-fuel missiles, which are easier to store and transport, and which can be launched with almost no warning or preparation time.
Although North Korea has tested short-range solid-fuel missiles, it has not tested a long-range missile of that type, said Bruce Bennett, a senior defense analyst at the US-based RAND Corporation.
Kim Dong-yup, a former South Korean naval officer who teaches at Kyungnam University’s Far East Institute, said the new system could be an intercontinental ballistic missile unveiled at a military parade in February, and boosted of a solid-fuel engine tested in December.
The missile was fired at 7:23 am (2223 GMT on Wednesday) from near Pyongyang, the South’s military said. Japan’s coast guard said it arrived at 8:19 am
It may have been launched from an international airport near the North Korean capital, a key site for test-firing large missiles since 2017.
The nuclear envoys of allies South Korea, the US and Japan spoke out and condemned the launch, saying North Korea continues to threaten peace in the region with “unprecedented levels of provocations and threatening words “, said the foreign ministry of South Korea.
Japan called a meeting of the National Security Council in response to the launch. Its defense minister, Yasukazu Hamada, said the missile appeared to have been fired east at a high angle and did not fall into Japanese territory.
Japan’s coast guard said the projectile fell into the sea east of North Korea. Hamada said he could not confirm whether the missile flew over Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
Authorities lifted the alert for the island of Hokkaido in northern Japan when they determined the missile would not land nearby.
Schools in Hokkaido have delayed their opening hours and some train services have been suspended, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported.
A student there said the alert caused a brief alarm at a train station.
“For a second on the train there was panic, but a station worker said to calm down, and people did,” a student told NHK.
The launch came days after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for strengthening deterrence in a “more practical and offensive” way to counter what North Korea calls aggressive moves by the United States. united states
While condemning North Korea’s latest series of missile tests, the United States renewed its offer to open talks.
“The door to diplomacy is not closed, but Pyongyang must immediately cease its destabilizing actions and instead choose diplomatic engagement,” US National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a statement.
North Korea has criticized recent joint military exercises between US and South Korean forces as escalating tensions, which has increased its weapons tests in recent months.
Reporting by Hyunsu Yim, Ju-min Park, Soo-hyang Choi and Hyonhee Shin in Seoul, Chang-Ran Kim in Tokyo; Writing by Gerry Doyle; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman, Neil Fullick and William Mallard
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.