North Korea Launches ICBM, Heightening Tensions in Region
On March 16, 2023, North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) into the Sea of Japan from near Pyongyang. This launch is not only a reminder of the shared threats in the region, but came just hours before South Korean President Yoon Suk-Yeol was set to fly to Tokyo for the first summit between the two countries in 12 years, with the situation in nuclear-armed North Korea a key concern.
The missile flew for 70 minutes and reached a maximum altitude of over 6,000 km before landing in the sea roughly 125 miles west of Oshima Island off of Hokkaido, outside of the country's exclusive economic zone. Japanese officials reported that the projectile flew for about 69 minutes and traveled about 1,000 kilometers. The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff released a statement indicating that two missiles were observed, whereas the Japanese authorities initially reported that a minimum of three missiles had been launched. Japanese authorities revised their estimation to two missiles, corresponding to North Korea's announcement the following day in its state media.
The US and its allies have strongly condemned North Korea’s series of ballistic missile launches. Adrienne Watson, spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, stated in a declaration that these activities unnecessarily increase tensions in the area. South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said North Korea will have to pay the price for its reckless provocations, also noting that the launch demonstrated the need to reinforce security cooperation with the United States and Japan. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said that Tokyo needs to work even more closely with its allies and like-minded countries to maintain peace and stability in the region.
Since the start of the year, North Korea has conducted eight missile test launches. It is believed that North Korea has created ICBMs that can be loaded with multiple warheads. In 2022, North Korea set a record by launching more than 90 missiles, the highest number ever fired in a single year.
South Korean and US intelligence authorities are conducting a comprehensive analysis in consideration of recent trends related to North Korea's missile development. The US will take all necessary steps to ensure the security of its homeland, Japan and South Korea, its key Asian allies. North Korea has denounced US-South Korean military drills as a rehearsal for invasion, and is likely to pay the clear price for its reckless provocations.
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