North Korea fired a long-range ballistic missile into the sea from its capital, Pyongyang, South Korean and Japanese officials said on Saturday.
The launch came a day after North Korea’s foreign ministry threatened to take “unprecedented” action against its rival after neighbor South Korea announced a series of military exercises with the United States.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pointed out that the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile was “an outrageous act that escalates provocations against the entire international community.”
Speaking to a press conference after the National Security Council ended, he said he had “launched a very strong protest,” adding that he would cooperate with the United States and South Korea.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said at a separate press conference that the missile was launched from a point near the North Korean capital Pyongyang. He added that it remained in the air for 66 minutes before landing about 125 miles west of Oshima, in Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
Defense Minister Seiichi Hamada later told reporters that the calculated range could be close to 8,700 miles, “which would put the entire United States within range.”
A South Korean government official confirmed the launch, and the data matched those provided by Japan.
“North Korea’s long-range missile launch is a grave provocation that undermines the peace and security of not only the Korean Peninsula but also the international community,” the country’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
“It is also in clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions and urges North Korea to stop immediately,” the statement added.
North Korea, which is having a record year of weapons demonstrations, firing more than 70 ballistic missiles, including an intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach the U.S. mainland by 2022, declined to comment. However, it will be the first time since January 1 that it has launched a short-range weapon.
But state media reported last month that Kim Jong Un had ordered an “exponential” expansion of his country’s nuclear arsenal, the development of more powerful intercontinental ballistic missiles and the launch of its first spy satellite.
During a massive military parade in Pyongyang last week, Kim Jong Un displayed an unprecedented number of more than a dozen intercontinental ballistic missiles. Some of these missiles include new systems, according to the Associated Press, which experts suspect may be related to North Korea’s stated acquisition of solid-fuel ICBMs.
According to the Associated Press, solid-fuel ICBMs take less time to prepare, are easier to transport by vehicle, and are less likely to be detected.
To counter the North Korean nuclear threat, the U.S. military said on Jan. 31 that it would deploy more advanced weapons to the Korean peninsula, and North Korea was ready to meet the U.S. with its “most overwhelming nuclear force.”
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