North Korea launches ballistic missiles, US, South Korea prepare for military drills

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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